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					          THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE:
 A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THEORY AND EVIDENCE


                                    STUART APPELLE1
                                  Department of Psychology
         State University of New York College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420-2977

        ABSTRACT: Prevalent hypotheses regarding the etiology of the abduction experience
     are examined, especially in regard to the existing evidence. Deception, suggestibility
     (fantasy-proneness, hypnotizability, false-memory syndrome), personality , sleep phe-
     nomena, psychopathology , psychodynamics, environmental factors, and event-level
     alien encounters are each considered as origins of the abduction experience.The data
     are discussed in terms of what is and is not consistent with theory, the concept of
     parsimony, and the need for conver ging lines of evidence in establishing linkages
     between fact and theory. On the basis of this analysis, it is argued that no theory yet
     enjoys enough empirical support to be accepted as a general explanation for the
     abduction experience. The concept of the abduction experience as a multicausal
     phenomenon is discussed, and suggestions for future research are provided.

   The “abduction experience” 2 is characterized by subjectively real memories of
being taken secretly and/or against one’s will by apparently nonhuman entities and
subjected to complex physical and psychological procedures. 3 The number of such
experiences has been estimated by Jacobs (1992) as 5–6% of the population, and by
Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum (1992) as 2% of the population. More conservative
estimates may be derived by counting the actual number of cases that have been
reported by investigators. For example, Bullard’s (1994) survey of 13 investigators
yielded 1,700 cases. Whatever the number, few aspects of ufology have attracted as
much attention. To those who dismiss the possibility that UFOs may be spacecraft,
the notion of abductions by UFO occupants is seen as inherently implausible. For
those who believe that UFOs are under the control of extraterrestrials, abduction
experiences suggest both a rationale for surreptitious UFO activity and an opportu-
nity to learn about the purpose underlying such activity . In essence, the abduction
                                                                         t
experience is seen as an answer to the proverbial question, “Why don’ they land on
the White House lawn?”
   In addition to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, there are numerous alternative ex-
planations for the abduction experience, many of which have been actively debated
in the ufological literature. However, these debates have often shed much more heat
than light. The purpose of this paper is to closely examine the proposed explana-
tions (causes) for the abduction experience in terms of their theoretical strengths
and weaknesses, and more importantly, in terms of what (if any) empirical evidence
exists in their support. The review does not address subsidiary issues which presup-
pose a particular etiology. (For example, what planets do the abductors come from?)


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30                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

Nor does it entertain the position advocated by some that an understanding of the
abduction experience is not amenable to scientific analysis (a position with which I
disagree; Appelle, 1994b).
        The Rule of Parsimony and Theories of the Abduction Experience
  The issue of evidence is particularly important in regard to the rule of parsimony
(often referred to as Occam’ s razor). This maxim states that when interpreting a
phenomenon, unnecessary assumptions should not be introduced. It is important to
emphasize that parsimony is defined in terms of unnecessary assumptions, not in
terms of unpopular assumptions, disturbing assumptions, or unconventional as-
sumptions. As such, it can be assessed only in regard to empirical evidence, as the
empirical evidence defines which assumptions are or are not necessary . A theory
cannot continue to be defended on the grounds of parsimony if it has been
disconfirmed through experiment, and in the absence of proper testing, parsimony
by itself is of limited value in assessing a theory’s validity.
  An understanding of this is essential because parsimony is routinely used as the
criterion against which theories of the abduction experience are compared.As these
theories are examined, it should be kept in mind that parsimony is a rule by which
evidence is to be evaluated. It should not be confused with evidence itself.

                                     HOAXES
   The hoax explanation suggests that reports of alien abduction are not honest
descriptions of experiences, but are stories made up to deliberately deceive. It is
generally assumed that the motivation for such deception lies in the opportunity for
monetary or psychosocial reward afforded by such stories. These opportunities cer-
tainly exist. Books recounting abduction experiences are widely sold, and there is
an active lecture circuit for individuals who report such experiences. Moreover ,
support groups for abduction experiencers, talk shows, and conferences provide
opportunities for social interaction and celebrity that would not otherwise be avail-
able to the experiencer.
   However, to take advantage of such opportunities, the abduction experiencer must
go public with the experience. In the vast majority of cases there is simply nothing
in the reporter’s behavior that would suggest such an intention.Abduction experien-
cers see mental health professionals for help in coping with the experience, or they
see abduction investigators to obtain or share information about the experience.
But beyond this limited contact, the experiencer who goes public is a rarity (even if
based on the minimal number of known cases, such as Bullard’s [1994] database of
1,700 cases; based on the number of estimated cases, such as Hopkins et al. [1992],
the proportion of experiencers who have gone public is even more of a rarity).
Much more commonly, the experiencer desires assurance of anonymity.
   On the other hand, deliberate misrepresentation can occur in the absence of nor -
mal incentives for deception. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                31

of Mental Disorders: DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), factitious
disorder refers to individuals who feign physical or psychological illness where
“the motivation for the behavior is to assume the sick role” (p. 474). That is, the
psychological need to be a “patient” is itself symptomatic of a disorder . Where
psychological symptoms predominate, the individual “may claim . . . memory loss
. . . hallucinations . . . and dissociative symptoms. These individuals may be ex-
tremely suggestible and may endorse many of the symptoms brought up during a
review of symptoms” (p. 472).
    Despite some parallels with abduction accounts, there are a number of character-
istics of factitious disorder that make it an unlikely source of abduction hoaxes.
Sufferers are likely to have an extensive history of hospitalizations or treatment
interventions, be extremely resistant to giving up the role as patient, and are reluc-
tant, vague, and inconsistent when asked to provide information in detail. These
and other differential diagnoses are not characteristic of the vast majority of abduc-
tion experiencers.
    In any case, no one has seriously suggested that hoaxes account for any but a few
of the thousands of abduction experience reports. The hoax hypothesis has been
advanced (Klass, 1988) to account for the stories of specific abduction claimants,
but the sincerity (albeit not the accuracy) of most abduction experiencers is gener -
ally acknowledged even by ardent skeptics.

                        SUSCEPTIBILITY     TO   SUGGESTION
   Suggestion is often proposed as the cause of the abduction experience. This hy-
pothesis has taken a number of different forms. Hypnotizability refers to a talent for
accepting suggestions offered during hypnosis. Fantasy proneness refers to a per -
sonality trait characterized by a predisposition to engage in compelling, imagina-
tive experience. The false-memory syndrome refers to the influence of suggestion
during the course of therapy . Central to each of these constructs is the notion that
imagined events can be experienced as historical events.
                    (a) Hypnotic Memory and Hypnotizability
                                                                   s
   Hypnosis involves procedures designed to maximize a subject’ ability to respond
to suggestion. Hypnotic suggestions to go back in time and remember or relive past
events have been widely used as a method for retrieving or enhancing memory .
This notwithstanding, in controlled experiments hypnotically enhanced memory is
at best only modestly demonstrated. Instead, an in crease in pseudomemories (an
effect that escalates with increased pressure to recall), increased confidence in the
validity of one’s pseudomemories, and increased susceptibility to suggestion or lead-
ing questions are more generally the rule. (See Farthing, 1992; Smith, 1983 for
typical reviews of this literature.)
   In theory, therefore, hypnosis should have a greater potential to create abduction
experiences than to retrieve them. This is particularly troublesome given that many
32                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

more abduction reports have emerged in the course of hypnosis than through spon-
taneous recall (Bullard, 1987, 1994). As such, it is not surprising that critics of the
abduction phenomenon cite the scientific literature on hypnosis as grounds for dis-
                                                                         ,
missing hypnotically retrieved accounts of alien abduction (e.g., Baker 1990, 1992;
Klass, 1988). An evaluation of this ar gument follows.
   Applicability of hypnosis research to the abduction experience. If hypnotic
memory in general is suspect, then hypnotically retrieved memory of abductions
must be suspect as well. However, this assumption depends on the extent to which
the experimental situation is comparable to that associated with the abduction ex-
perience (Appelle, 1994a).
   Studies that are used to generalize to the abduction experience should involve
source (retrieval) materials that are like the abduction experience in quality . Ab-
duction memories are characterized by dynamic, emotionally char ged events that
instill trauma, fear, anxiety, confusion, and anger. Moreover, they are characterized
by events so unusual as to be outside the range of normal human experience.
   In contrast, the bulk of laboratory research has used static and neutral source
material such as memorized lists of words. Some studies have used more relevant
materials for retrieval such as stress-inducing stimuli (DePiano & Salzber g, 1981;
Zelig & Beidleman, 1981), or simulations of emotionally char ged events like acci-
dents or crimes (Brigham, Maass, Snyder, & Spaulding, 1982; Malpass & Devine,
1980; Sanders & Warnick, 1981). The results of these studies are entirely consis-
tent with those using more mundane materials. However, they still fail to reproduce
the “strangeness” of abduction experiences, or the range and magnitude of emo-
tional states associated with reported abductions.
   Moreover, the efficacy of hypnosis in enhancing recall should be related not only
to the kind of material to be retrieved, but also to the cause of for getting (decay,
interference, repression, psychological trauma, physical trauma, etc.). Surprisingly,
there exists virtually no research on this issue. For example, there are no systematic
investigations of the accuracy or efficacy of hypnotic recall in trauma-induced am-
nesia. This is unfortunate, because anecdotal reports and case studies regarding
recall of traumatic events abound in both the forensic and clinical literature, and
provide much of the basis for the belief in hypnotic hypermnesia.
   Of course, we do not know if the abduction experience follows trauma-induced
amnesia. First, this presupposes actual forgetting of some real event (as opposed to
an hypnotically created pseudomemory). Second, it presupposes experienced trauma
(either to an actual abduction or to some other event for which the recalled abduc-
tion is a screen memory). Third, as will be discussed later , the very concepts of
repression and dissociative amnesia are controversial (Loftus, 1993; Ofshe & Singer    ,
1994).
   There is an additional problem in regard to hypnosis and the mechanisms of
forgetting. Real alien abductions might be for gotten because of yet unidentified
processes (as suggested by the numerous reports by abduction experiencers of alien
mind control). The applicability of hypnosis research to unknown mechanisms can-
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 33

not, of course, be evaluated.
   General hypnotizability. To whatever extent hypnosis may cause false experi-
                                                                             s
ences of alien abduction, its potential to do so should increase as a subject’ suscep-
tibility to hypnotic suggestion increases.
   Rodeghier, Goodpaster, and Blatterbauer (1991) assessed hypnotic responsive-
ness in a group of abduction experiencers with the Creative Imagination Scale (W    il-
son & Barber, 1978). This instrument evaluates subjects’ ability to vividly imagine
suggested scenes and situations. The authors found that, as a group, abduction ex-
periencers were no more susceptible to hypnotic suggestion than the general popu-
lation.
   Spanos, Cross, Dickson, and Dubreuil (1993) used the Carleton University Re-
sponsiveness to Suggestion Scale (Spanos, Radtke, Hodgins, S tam, & Bertrand,
1983) to measure hypnotizability. This test measures three dimensions of hypnotiz-
ability: number of items to which an appropriate response is made, extent to which
the subjective effects called for are experienced, and the degree to which subjects’
                                         .
responses are perceived as involuntary The researchers found that their experiencer
population was no different from the controls on any of these measures.
   Specific hypnotizability. In a recent survey of investigators and mental health
practitioners, Bullard (1994) found that “nine out of ten respondents stated that
many or most of their [abduction experiencer] subjects are easy to hypnotize” (p.
575). Bullard’s interpretation is that his “survey sample of abductees appears espe-
cially rich in people of high susceptibility to hypnosis” (p. 575).
   As noted above, however, this position is not supported by formal tests of hypno-
tizability. These subjects may be highly hypnotizable in sessions dedicated to ex-
ploring their abduction experiences, but they are not highly hypnotizable per se.
This may not be as paradoxical as it seems. Orne, Whitehouse, Orne, & Dinges
(1996) have argued that the combined effects of relaxation, therapist-hypnotist vali-
dation, and repetitive probing create a situation in which “individuals can be con-
siderably more af fected by hypnotic procedures than their behaviorally anchored
ratings of hypnotical ability would suggest” (p. 170).
   Alternatively, the discrepancy between hypnosis scores and the ease in soliciting
abduction accounts may mean that something about the abduction experience itself
makes it particularly susceptible to hypnotic procedures. In fact, research has iden-
tified several factors that may contribute to this situation.
   First, hypnotic recall improves when the material to be remembered is meaning-
ful to the individual (Shields & Knox, 1986), when the emotional, physical, and
cognitive conditions of the original experience are hypnotically reinstated (Ander -
son, 1990), and as context for the event is more highly integrated with the memory
to be retrieved (Eich, 1985). These conditions are common to hypnotic regression
for the abduction experience.
   Second, research on state-dependent learning suggests that returning to the state
of consciousness in which an experience originally occurred may improve recall.
For example, returning to a state of alcohol (Goodwin, Powell, Bremmer, Hoine, &
34                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

Stern, 1969) or marijuana (Eich, Weingartner, Stillman, & Gillin, 1975) intoxica-
tion, or the influence of stimulants (Swanson & Kinsbourne, 1976) improves recall
of events that originally occurred during those conditions. If hypnosis produces a
mental state that in any way resembles the state during which an abduction is origi-
nally experienced, recall for that experience could be enhanced. Some abduction
experiencers have described a mental state for the remembered event (e.g., Webb,
1994) that is not unlike that reported by other subjects for the experience of being
hypnotized.
   Finally, the literature on hypnosis has provided some evidence that information not
previously available to consciousness can be retrieved hypnotically . For example,
hypnotic recall has been reported for stimuli presented subliminally (Kunzendorf,
Lacourse, & Lynch, 1987) or during general anesthesia (Cheek, 1959, 1964; Levinson,
1965). Although this research is itself controversial, it implies that information regis-
tered outside of normal conscious awareness may be accessed during hypnosis.
Abduction experiencers often describe knowledge apparently acquired in this way .
   These considerations suggest a basis for the specific hypnotizability obtained for
abduction experiences. This should not, however, be confused with an argument for
the veridicality of abduction experiences. The factors discussed certainly apply to
real events, but they could also apply to experiences originating in the imagination
or unconscious. This possibility must remain at the status of conjecture, however ,
because there can be no direct evidence that a conscious experience had heretofore
resided in the unconscious.
   Nevertheless, it may be useful to consider this possibility in regard to other anoma-
lous experiences proposed to have imaginative or unconscious antecedents. Like
abduction experiences, past-life identities (reincarnations) are also easily elicited
through hypnosis from normal individuals (Kampman, 1976), are rich in detail, and
are believed by the experiencer as veridical recall of actual past events (Spanos, Bur-
gess, & Burgess, 1994). Spanos et al. argue that both hypnotic abduction experiences
and past lives (as well as elicited memories of satanic ritual abuse and multiple per -
sonalities) are “social creations . . . determined by the understandings that subjects
develop about such experiences from the information to which they are exposed”
(p. 436). Whether or not this interpretation is correct, the role of hypnosis may be
elucidated through a consideration of abduction experiences in relationship to other
anomalous experiences routinely accessible to the hypnotized subject.
   Simulations of the abduction experience. Lawson (1977) asked hypnotized sub-
jects to describe events associated with a suggested close encounter with a UFO. He
claimed considerable similarity between these reports and those from real abduc-
tion experiencers. This study has been widely cited by skeptics but widely criticized
                                                     ,
by ufologists (Bullard, 1989) for its methodology conclusions, and generalizability.
Whatever its validity, it remains the only direct test of the role of hypnosis in the
abduction experience. 4
   Lynn and colleagues describe a related experiment (L     ynn & Pezzo, 1994; Lynn &
Kirsch, 1996). Testing the premise that similarities found across abduction experi-
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                35

ences can be accounted for by familiarity with these elements in our popular cul-
ture, they reasoned that encounter scenarios deliberately and consciously made up
by non-abduction-experiencers should approximate those generated by actual ab-
duction experiencers. To test this, volunteers were asked to simulate (role play) the
behavior of an excellent hypnotic subject asked to recall events following the obser  -
vation of a mysterious light in the sky. (The subjects were not actually hypnotized.)
Like Lawson, these experimenters report certain (yet sketchy) similarities between
their subjects’ accounts and those typically found in the abduction experience lit-
erature.
   On the other hand, Randles (1994a) noted a number of inconsistencies between
the prototypical abduction experience and the stories of twenty British subjects asked
to imagine a close encounter . These inconsistencies included more humanlike en-
tities, almost no reports of “doorway amnesia” (failure to recall events associated
with entry into the abductors’ craft), not a single medical examination, and little
resemblance of apparent alien motives to those indicated in the reports by actual
abduction experiencers.
                                                                       L
   Although these results seem contradictory to those of Lawson and ynn and Pezzo,
it is interesting to note that compared to the stereotypical American abduction sce-
nario, British abduction experiencers report humanlike entities about four times
more often, and medical examinations about !/3 as often (Randles, 1994b). There-
fore, the results with British subjects who are asked to make up a close encounter
are more consistent with the typical British abduction report than might otherwise
be apparent.
   Each of these studies could benefit from tighter methodology and closer exami-
nation of the content and frequency of the generated reports. In the meantime,
however, they suggest that elements of the abduction experience are found in the
imaginations of the nonexperiencer population, and that consistency in abduction
accounts is becoming more difficult to justify as evidence of veridicality.
   Influence of hypnosis and hypnotists. Abduction narratives can be compared to
determine if they vary according to the particular theoretical inclinations of the
investigator or therapist eliciting the account. Also, accounts which emerge during
hypnosis can be compared with those stemming from conscious experience. Such
analyses have been carried out by Bullard (1989, 1994). On the basis of his find-
ings, Bullard (1989) concluded that “the form and content of abduction stories
seems independent of hypnosis” (p. 3). In a more recent examination, Bullard (1994)
concludes that hypnosis is a significant factor in regard to the quantity of material
“recovered,” but not in any direct way to the content.
                              (b) Fantasy Proneness
   The concept of fantasy proneness developed out of a line of research designed to
find personality traits that correlate with hypnotizability . Among highly hypnotiz-
able subjects, Wilson and Barber (1981, 1983b) identified a group of individuals
who could hallucinate voluntarily, have imaginary experiences that are subjectively
36                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

as real as nonfantasized events, and who occasionally had dif ficulty distinguishing
memories of fantasized events from those which actually happened. Wilson and
Barber called these subjects “fantasy prone.”
   Theoretical issues. Fantasy proneness is theoretically relevant to the abduction
experience both as a source of imaginative experience, and because of similarities
between the experiences of fantasy-prone persons and those of abduction ex-
periencers. For example, the fantasy prone report a high incidence of false preg-
nancies, psychic and out-of-body experiences, apparitions, and vivid sleep imagery
which feels “as if they are seeing something that really exists out there or that they
are looking into another dimension” (Wilson & Barber, 1981, p. 365). These expe-
riences have parallels with those reported by abduction experiencers (Bullard, 1987,
1994), suggesting that abduction experiencers and the fantasy prone may belong to
the same population.
   Moreover, the elicitation of imaginative abduction experiences might be exacer -
bated in situations where the emer gence is hypnotically assisted. Wilson and Bar-
ber (1981) found that the fantasy prone represented 96% of their highly hypnotizable
subjects, and described their response to hypnotic suggestions as “the kind of thing
they can do independently . . . in their daily lives” (W ilson and Barber, 1983b, p.
377).
   However, subsequent research has shown this finding to be misleading.Although
a relationship between fantasy proneness and hypnotizability has generally been
supported, the relationship appears to be much more modest than Wilson and Bar-
ber originally reported (L ynn & Rhue, 1988). For example, L ynn, Green, Rhue,
Mare, and Williams (1990) found only 12.82%–16.6% of their highly hypnotizable
subjects (depending on the measure of hypnotizability) were fantasy prone (in con-
trast to Wilson and Barber ’s 96%). This discrepancy is related to whether subjects
are selected on the basis of their hypnotizability or on the basis of their fantasy prone-
ness. Fantasy-prone individuals are likely to be highly hypnotizable (they carry their
everyday talents into the hypnosis situation), but highly hypnotizable individuals are
not generally fantasy prone. In fact, relationships between hypnotizability and any
measure of imaginative traits are actually quite small (Kirsch & Council, 1992).
   Studies of abduction experiencers. Ring and Rosing (1990) compared a group of
abduction experiencers and others reporting UFO encounters with a group of sub-
jects (controls) who expressed only an interest in UFOs. Using a battery of tests
they found that experiencers are not fantasy prone in any general sense. However ,
the encounter subjects were significantly more likely to report childhood experi-
ences of psychic phenomena, “non-physical beings,” and to “see into other realities
that others didn’t seem to be aware of.” Each of these characteristics is consistent
with fantasy-prone characteristics originally reported by Wilson and Barber.
   The authors interpreted their finding as “sensitiv[ity] to non-ordinary realities,”
but acknowledged that the role of such sensitivities—as causes, facilitators, or ef-
fects of encounter experiences—cannot be determined from their study . They also
acknowledged that the validity of the assessment measures they used has been lar     gely
                APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 37

untested, providing a further limitation on the generalizability of their findings.
   In another study , Rodeghier et al. (1991) focused on subjects who met clearly
defined criteria for an abduction experience. Fantasy proneness was assessed with
the Inventory of Childhood Memories and Imaginings (ICMI) (W ilson & Barber ,
1983a), an instrument adapted from that used by Wilson and Barber (1981) in their
seminal study of the fantasy prone. The authors found no difference between ICMI
scores for their abduction-experiencer group and that reported for a random sample
of the population.
   Bartholomew, Basterfield, and Howard (1991) examined over one hundred ab-
duction experiencers and concluded that the vast majority (87%) had histories con-
sistent with one or more of the major symptoms found in the fantasy-prone profile.
However, the authors’ assessed fantasy proneness by retrospective analysis of bio-
graphical data rather than an independent test for fantasy proneness; and of the
reported fantasy-prone characteristics the authors examined, only the frequency of
experienced psychic phenomena even approaches that found by Wilson and Barber
(1981) in their fantasy-prone population.
   Spanos et al. (1993) compared fantasy proneness for “intense” UFO experiencers
(those reporting encounters with aliens), those reporting only observation of distant
lights or objects which they interpreted as UFOs, and control subjects reporting no
UFO experiences. The authors found no statistical dif ference across or between
groups on fantasy proneness as measured by the ICMI.
   They did, however, find a correlation between ICMI scores and an intensity-of-
experience scale. UFO believers who were relatively fantasy prone tended to report
more elaborate UFO experiences. However , this relationship must be viewed in
perspective. As the authors point out, very few subjects reporting UFO-related ex-
periences attained extreme scores on the ICMI. In fact, even for the intense-
experiencer group the mean ICMI score was only 22.4, a score which is right at the
midrange of that for the general population (L ynn & Rhue, 1988). Spanos et al.
concluded that their “findings clearly contradict the hypotheses that UFO reports—
even intense UFO reports characterized by such seemingly bizarre experiences as
missing time and communication with aliens—occur primarily in individuals who
are highly fantasy-prone” (p. 629).
   As a final comment on the viability of the fantasy-prone hypothesis, an experi-
ment testing Wilson and Barber’s original description of fantasy-prone experiences
                                                      ynn
as being “as real as real” is of relevance. Rhue and L (1987) asked a large group
of fantasy-prone subjects to hallucinate a S tyrofoam cup. Although these subjects
were quite successful at this task, few ascribed realistic properties to the halluci-
nated experience. If the fantasy prone can readily distinguish imagined stimuli
from real ones, then even on theoretical grounds the fantasy-prone explanation of
the abduction experience is significantly compromised.
                           (c) False-Memory Syndrome
  The ar gument that therapy for real or imagined trauma may lead to “recollec-
38                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

tions” of events that never happened has been termed the “false-memory syndrome”
(Goldstein, 1992).
   Originally, the false-memory syndrome was developed to suggest an iatrogenic
origin for accounts of childhood sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse. However ,
the false-memory syndrome has also been of fered (for a list of representative ar -
ticles see Gotlib, 1993) as an explanation for abduction experiences. (It is not un-
common for abduction experiencers to see mental health professionals for symp-
toms associated with a believed or suspected abduction experience.) Although the
spontaneous emergence during therapy of a completely unsuspected abduction ex-
perience is apparently quite rare (based on the general lack of references to such
cases in the clinical literature; see, however , Gotlib, 1996), the false-memory syn-
drome could be a factor in enriching an existing abduction experience, creating
whole new experiences beyond those for which the client initially presents, and for
hardening conviction in regard to the validity of the experience.
   Garry and Loftus (1994) review research using four dif ferent sources of sugges-
tion to show that susceptibility to false memory is not an exclusive property of
either hypnosis or special imaginative propensities. Rather, it reflects a responsive-
ness to suggestion that has been amply demonstrated for the general population,
and may be occasioned by the particular dynamics that can exist in the therapeutic
environment. Their review demonstrates the influence of (a) leading questions, (b) the
suggested existence of items or events in a previously observed scene, (c) the transfor -
mation of a recollection through new information (inaccurate retrieval cues), and (d)
acceptance of a complete memory for something that never happened to the subject.
   The authors conclude that these conver ging experiments “provide compelling
evidence that it is not hard at all to make people truly believe they have seen or
experienced something they have not—without any hypnosis at all” (pp. 365–66).
Indeed, by demonstrating memory creation for significant and traumatic situations,
these studies refute the argument that memory alterations can occur only for trivial
details and for nontraumatic events.
   The concern about therapist influence on the beliefs and memories of clients is
sufficiently great that a number of professional or ganizations in the mental health
field (American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees, 1993; American Psy-
chological Association, 1994; American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, 1995) have
formally cautioned their members against practices that might exacerbate the po-
tential for false memories. An ethics committee in ufology (Abduction Study Con-
ference Ethics Committee) has taken a similar position with regard to investigators
and mental health professionals working with abduction experiencers (Gotlib,
Appelle, Rodeghier, & Flamburis, 1994). The seriousness with which this admoni-
tion has been taken by ufologists is reflected in the fact that this Ethics Code has
                                                   g
been endorsed by the three major ufological or anizations (Center for UFO Studies,
Fund for UFO Research, Mutual UFO Network).
   In spite of such cautions, there still exist a number of mental health practitioners
who continue to use aggressive techniques (e.g., frequent hypnosis sessions, sup-
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                   39

port and discussion groups) to explore for abduction experiences, and to provide (in
the absence of independent corroborating evidence) validation of the experience as
indicative of an actual alien abduction. These practices are often rationalized in
terms of the emotional sincerity of the client, or the apparent improvement in pre-
                                                                       ,
senting symptoms that occurs during the course of treatment. Howeveras one thera-
pist (Nash, 1994) noted in reviewing the literature on recovered memory and trauma:

       Clinical utility and historical veridicality are so confounded in psycho-
       analytical and other insight-oriented therapies. . . . Clinical utility may
       have little or nothing to do with uncovering the truth about the patient’ s
       past. We should stop claiming that it does. . . . What patients think they
       have found out about their past may be helpful, but that does not neces-
       sarily mean that it is accurate. [Nash, 1994, p. 351]

                             PERSONALITY THEORIES
   Some theories suggest that special personality syndromes predispose individuals
to incorporate information about alien abductions into their imaginative produc-
tions, and to accept these productions as experiences of historical events. Unlike
the factors just discussed, these syndromes are not characterized by suggestibility
per se. Rather, suggestion capitalizes on these personality traits to take the form of
the abduction experience.
                       (a) The Boundary-Deficit Hypothesis
   Hartmann (1984) studied individuals who suffer from nightmares. He found that
this population shared a constellation of traits characterized by weak discrimina-
tion between basic cognitive categories such as self and nonself, fantasy and reality  ,
dream and waking experiences, etc. These weak “boundaries” result in individuals
who are sensitive, artistic, empathetic, vulnerable, imaginative, have a weak sense
of sexual or personal identity , have dif ficulty distinguishing periods of time, and
are perceived by others as different.
   Kottmeyer (1988) has argued that this description of the boundary-deficit person-
ality also describes the abduction experiencer, and that these characteristics provide a
breeding ground for experiencing close encounters. According to Kottmeyer:

       To be considered a candidate for the hypothesis that one is a victim of
       alien abduction a person must present certain symptoms. Among the
       factors which are looked for are conscious memories of an abduction,
       revealing nightmares, missing time, forgotten scars, or dramatic reac-
       tions to seemingly trivial . . . lights. . . . The last four factors act as
       screening devices to yield a population of boundary-deficit individu-
       als. This is blatant in the case of people whose candidacy [as an ab-
       duction experiencer] is based on nightmares of aliens. It is subtler in
40                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

       other symptoms. People who have thin boundaries in their time sense
       . . . will experience periods of missing time . . . [and] could easily lose
       track of the event that led to the creation of a scar . People with weak
       ego-id boundaries and a sense of powerlessness probably would over-
       react to distant inexplicable lights. . . . We would predict the final
       population of abduction claimants would be biased in favor of a high
       proportion of boundary-deficit personalities. [Kottmeyer, 1988, p. 5]

    Kottmeyer goes on to argue that popular culture, the media, the activity of abduc-
tion investigators, and the use of hypnosis all create an “abduction myth [which]
has opportunistic features wherein boundary-deficit traits act to justify id material
. . . being considered real” (p. 7). He makes a more specific case for the availability
of such material elsewhere (Kottmeyer, 1989).
    Although Hartmann’s boundary-deficit concept emerged from a careful study of
nightmare sufferers, Kottmeyer’s extension of this concept to abduction experienc-
ers is based on anecdotal data (most notably the abduction accounts of        Whitley
Strieber) specifically selected in support of his contention. Kottmeyer is well aware
that his observations are not based on any systematic study of abduction experienc-
ers, and acknowledges that “it would obviously be child’ s play to pick and choose
isolated bits of confirming or discordant biographical information from the abductee
literature and argue about the fit of Hartmann’s boundary-deficit profile to various
individual cases” (Kottmeyer, 1988, p. 5). Accordingly, he notes a number of char-
acteristics that the boundary-deficit hypothesis would predict. While there has not
been a direct test of Kottmeyer’s theory, data relevant to a number of his predictions
are available.
    In their systematic comparison of control and close-encounter subjects, Spanos et
al. (1993) administered a number of scales 5 relevant to Kottmeyer ’s predictions.
Compared to the scores for control subjects, Spanos et al.’ s close encounter/UFO
experiencer groups showed higher Self-Esteem (Kottmeyer predicts experiencers
should “be more fragile and easily hurt” and “frequently rejected”), lower Schizo-
phrenia (Kottmeyer describes schizophrenia as a consequence of “abnormally thin”
boundaries), higher Well-Being (Kottmeyer describes a disproportionate number of
boundary-deficit individuals as having “contemplated or attempted suicide”), lower
Perceptual Aberration (boundary-deficit individuals should be “unusually alert to
lights, sounds, and sensations”), lower perception of an Unfriendly World (bound-
ary-deficit individuals are described as “victims of life’s conflicts” who either “re-
ject society or society rejects them”), lower Aggression (Kottmeyer predicts “a ten-
dency to project hostility”), and no dif ference in Social Potency (Kottmeyer sees
“emotions of powerlessness” as central to the boundary-deficit personality). More-
over, Spanos et al. found no dif ference between control and close-encounter sub-
jects on Absorption, Fantasy Proneness, and three scales of Imaginal Propensity,
all of which should be elevated according to the boundary-deficit hypothesis.
    These findings are either inconsistent with, or clearly opposite to those that
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                41

Kottmeyer’s boundary-deficit explanation would predict. However , other studies
have found characteristics consistent with the predictions of a boundary-deficit per-
sonality. These include a weak sense of personal or sexual identity (Slater , 1985),
schizoid tendencies (Parnell & Sprinkle, 1990), greater sensitivity to nonordinary
realities (Ring & Rosing, 1990), and a high rate of reported suicide attempts (Stone-
Carmen, 1994).
  The equivocal nature of these findings may reflect the extreme variation across
studies in assessment measures, diagnostic criteria, subject selection, data analyses,
and the fact that none of these studies was designed as a direct test of theboundary-
deficit hypothesis. A definitive appraisal of Kottmeyer ’s theory will require such
tests using consistent methodology.
                 (b) Escape-From-Self and Masoc histic Fantasies
   Newman and Baumeister (1994; 1996) hypothesize that the abduction experi-
ence is a manifestation of fantasies designed to “escape the self.” They argue that
for some people, events that leave the individual feeling “stupid, clumsy, or unlov-
able,” or just the burdens of having to maintain independence, responsibility, and a
positive image, may lead to pressure to avoid meaningful thought. In this regard,
they consider masochism 6 as one of the most ef fective ways to escape the self (it
contains the features of pain, loss of control, and humiliation, each of which Newman
and Baumeister argue are excellent strategies for escaping the self).
   Newman and Baumeister suggest that the parallels between masochistic fantasy
and abduction-experience narratives (especially those aspects of the abduction ex-
perience dealing with sexual or gynecological procedures) point to a common ori-
                                                            .
gin, namely the manifestation of escape-from-self fantasy They suggest that among
                                                                     ,
individuals for whom escape-from-self fantasy is a coping strategy the influence of
investigators, media, and popular culture creates the raw material for these fanta-
sies to manifest as an abduction experience.
   In support of their hypothesis, they analyzed the abduction accounts presented in
Bullard’s (1987) compendium of abduction-experience cases. They looked for spe-
cific references to humiliating displays (e.g., “being stretched out on a table naked
with lots of people watching”), a feature of masochistic fantasy they find is de-
scribed much more often by female than male masochistic fantasizers. Their analy-
sis of the Bullard data showed that such features were present in the narratives of
50% of the males and 80% of the females, a statistically significant difference con-
sistent with that found for masochists.
   Beyond this, there are no direct tests of their hypothesis. Neither masochistic
fantasy nor escape-from-self ideation has been specifically assessed among abduc-
tion experiencers. Indeed, in a focus issue of the journal Psychological Inquiry
(Volume 7, No. 2), commentators asked to discuss this hypothesis criticized it on
the grounds of being unparsimonious, unsupported by evidence, and perhaps
unfalsifiable (Arndt & Greenber g, 1996; Banaji & Kihlstrom, 1996; Bowers &
Eastwood, 1996; Hall, 1996; Hull, 1996).
42                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

                     (c) The Psychically Sensitive Personality
   Although experiencers often regard themselves as having increased psychic abili-
ties as an aftereffect of an abduction (Bullard, 1994; Ring, 1992), many report long
histories of ostensibly paranormal events preceding their abduction experiences
(Basterfield, 1994; Bullard, 1987; Randles, 1988; Ring, 1992). On several mea-
sures, abduction experiencers share personality characteristics with nonexperiencers
who consider themselves to be psychically sensitive. For example, Ring (1990)
found a constellation of traits in common between abduction experiencers and indi-
viduals who claim to be “electrically sensitive” (to have anomalous effects on elec-
trical devices). Based on a comparison of the personality characteristics of twenty
abduction experiencers and those of highly successful ESP subjects, Johnson (1994)
found that at least some experiencers share traits with subjects who have performed
well in “remote viewing” experiments.
    A number of investigators have considered these psychic propensities as a pos-
sible cause of the abduction experience. Ring (1992) suggests a connection between
psychically sensitive personality traits and his model of the “encounter -prone per-
sonality.” Randles (1988) has described the psychic histories of abduction experi-
encers as “the key to the entire [abduction] mystery.”
    However, neither the experiencer ’s personality traits, the high incidence of re-
porting apparently paranormal phenomena, nor interpretations of their experiences,
are objective evidence of either paranormal activity or an experiencer ’s psychic
ability. None of the studies reporting the psychic histories of abduction experien-
cers have directly tested this, and investigators cannot equate experiencers’ anec-
dotal reports with evidence of the paranormal. The data tell us only that individuals
who report abductions tend to report paranormal experiences as well. This fact
alone is worthy of further scrutiny , especially in light of the fact that abduction
experiencers typically report psychic (telepathic) communication with their abduc-
tors (Bullard, 1994).

                               SLEEP ANOMALIES
   The subjective and physiological concomitants of sleep are often suggested as an
explanation for the abduction experience (Spanos et. al., 1993; Baker , 1995). The
reasons for this are numerous. Abduction experiences are commonly reported as
having occurred at bedtime or during the course of sleep. They are frequently first
remembered as the content of an apparent (albeit unusual) dream, or as otherwise
having a dreamlike, subjective quality . And they are accompanied by the experi-
ence of paralysis, another condition associated with sleep. 7
   Sleep paralysis is characterized by an inability to move (except for the eyes),
while seemingly awake. In addition to experience of the paralysis itself, the condi-
tion is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear, or dread. During an attack of
sleep paralysis, the individual typically is aware of his or her surroundings, but on
other occasions the state of consciousness is less lucid or is accompanied by hypna-
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 43

gogic/hypnopompic hallucinations. (The former term refers to experiences which
occur during the transition from waking to sleeping; the latter during the transition
from sleeping to waking.)
  Both sleep paralysis and hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations occur in nor -
mal people (Fukada, 1994; Roth, 1978), but they may also be symptomatic (in some
cases the only overt symptom; Roth, 1978) of a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. A
narcoleptic attack can occur during normal daytime activities or even while driv-
ing. During a narcoleptic attack “a person may continue behavior associated with
wakeful consciousness but later have no memory for what he did. The episodes can
last hours” (Moorcroft, 1989, p. 262). This aspect of narcolepsy is reminiscent of
missing time in abduction experiences.
    (a) Commonalties Betw een Sleep Anomalies and Abduction Experiences
  In addition to the high prevalence of nighttime occurrence, the unaccounted-for
passages of time, and the experience of paralysis, both abduction experiences and
sleep anomalies may be reported throughout the lifespan (abduction experiences
have been reported by young children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly; the symp-
toms of sleep disorders may persist across the lifespan), and both may have a ge-
netic or familial history (abduction experiences often occur within families and
across generations; a similar relationship exists for victims of sleep disorders [Honda,
Asaka, Tanimura, & Furusho, 1983]).
           (b) Content of Abduction Experiences and Slee p Anomalies
   The content of sleep and abduction experiences has also been compared. Baker
(1990) characterizes the content of abduction experiences as “a classic, textbook
description” of hypnagogic hallucination (p. 251). For Baker , this textbook de-
scription includes “ghosts, aliens, monsters, etc.,” and for which “the hallucinator
is unalterably convinced of the reality of the entire experience” (p. 250). However,
except in cases of narcolepsy (where the sleeper goes from wakefulness directly into
REM sleep—the stage of sleep most closely associated with dreaming), most hyp-
nagogic and hypnopompic experiences involve static images or scenes (see Schacter     ,
1976, for a review). And even for the hallucinatory experiences in narcolepsy , “in
the majority of cases, the [hallucinators] are aware of the unreality of their percep-
tions” (Roth, 1978, p. 34).
   Moreover, there is no evidence that hypnagogic hallucination characteristically
includes aliens. On the other hand, apparitional experiences per se are not uncom-
mon. Hufford (1982) examined such experiences across a wide range of cultures. He
calls these experiences the “Old Hag” phenomenon (in reference to the generic char-
acteristics of the experience as found in Newfoundland tradition). These include:

       (1) awakening (or an experience immediately preceding sleep); (2)
       hearing and/or seeing something [e.g., the Old Hag or some other
       apparition] come into the room and approach the bed; (3) being pressed
44                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

       on the chest or strangled; (4) inability to move or cry out until either
       being brought out of the state by someone else or breaking through the
       feeling of paralysis on one’s own. [Hufford, 1982, pp. 10–11]

   Hufford questions whether this specificity of content across cultures can be un-
derstood simply in terms of sleep physiology . In this context, he cites an observa-
tion of Dement (a major figure in sleep research):

       Our understanding of hallucinations and dreams will be complete only
       when we can account for specific details, that is, when we know ex-
       actly why one particular dream or hallucinatory episode is experi-
       enced in preference to all other possibilities.” [Dement et al., 1970;
       cited in Hufford, 1982, p. 170]

  Hufford points out that “when the same proposition is applied to a particular kind
of content repeated in the experiences of many independent subjects, both the need
and the potential importance of such an accounting are greatly multiplied” (p. 170).
                                                                    f
Dement’s observation was in reference to dreams in general, and Huf ord’s in refer-
ence to the Old Hag. But their comments are even more germane to the highly
specific and consistent details of the abduction experience.
            (c) Documenting a Rela tionship Between Sleep Anomalies
                          and Abduction Experiences
   Despite the appeals to parsimony and analogy , as yet there have been no direct
tests of a linkage between sleep anomalies and abduction experiences. Rodeghier
(1994) reports a somewhat greater incidence of hypnagogic imagery in a subset of
abduction experiencers, but does not provide any evidence that the content of this
imagery ever takes the form of an abduction experience. Gotlib (1996) provides a
clinical case study suggesting a relationship between a sleep disorder and an abduc-
tion experience, but the overall prevalence of sleep disorders in the abduction-
experiencer population is not known. Until such evidence is available, the sleep-
anomalies explanation remains yet another interesting but undemonstrated hypoth-
esis.

                               PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
   Disorders that might account for false abduction experiences or their associated
symptomatology include psychosis (hallucinations and delusions), folie à deux
(shared psychotic symptoms brought about by a close relationship between the per-
cipients), conversion reactions (physiological manifestations of a psychosomatic
nature; for example, marks, blotches, and discolorations of the skin), dissociative
disorders (amnesia, fugue, and other conditions resulting in time loss and distor -
tion, disorientation, and unaccounted-for wanderings), multiple personality disor -
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 45

der (which in addition to missing time may be characterized by messages from and/
or dual identities with specific “others”), and Munchausen syndrome (self-inflicted
injury or false claims of physical symptomatology).
                                                                              ’s
   Psychopathology can be assessed according to a mental health practitioner clini-
cal impression (based on intake interview, clinical history, or diagnosis as evolved
in the course of therapy), or on the basis of standardized tests. Both approaches
have been used in evaluating abduction experiencers. Regardless of the method of
assessment, it should be emphasized that abnormality must be established indepen-
dent of abduction phenomenology itself. For example, Schnabel (1994) describes
similarities between the purported experiences of an alleged abduction victim and
the symptomatology of dissociative disorders. On the basis of these similarities the
reader is asked to assume that the reported abduction experiences are caused by
dissociative disorders. However, because the subject is never actually diagnosed as
                                                                              ,
dissociative, Schnabel’s argument is based not on a formal test for pathology but on
an appeal to parsimony.
   Even when formal tests are used, their interpretation is compromised by the fact
that they may fail to distinguish between dissociative tendencies and dissociative
effects. For example, Powers (1994a) assessed a group of abduction experiencers on
the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) subscale of the MMPI, and on the Percep-
tual Alteration Scale (P AS). PTSD is correlated with dissociative tendencies. The
PAS, another measure of dissociation, evaluates behavior in the domains of control,
self-monitoring, concealment, consciousness, and sensory experience. Powers found
                                                                           P
a clear correlation between abduction experiences and elevated PTSD and AS scores.
   Although Powers was primarily concerned with the implications of these results
for therapy, it is clear from her discussion that dissociative phenomenology was
considered only as a possible cause of the abduction experience and not as a pos-
sible effect. But anyone experiencing an actual abduction by aliens might be ex-
pected to have elevated scores on the measures assessed. Indeed, in mundane cases
of documented trauma (victims of rape, terrorism, witnessing an atrocity) elevated
scores on the kind of measures used by Powers are both expected and obtained
(Wilson, 1990).
                           (a) Assessments of Pathology
   Clinical Impression. In some studies, diagnosis is not based on any standardized
test for pathology, but on assessment interview, behavioral observation, and impres-
sion of the abduction experiencer ’s subjective account. For example, Mack (1994)
studied 76 abduction experiencers, and provides case studies of 13. However , noting
that “a full battery of psychometric tests is time consuming and expensive” (p. 17),
Mack had only four of his 76 cases formally tested for psychiatric disorder (one had
already been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons; the other three tested normal).
                                                                           g
   Other studies do employ psychological tests, but diagnosis is still lar ely subjec-
tive. For example, Bloecher , Clamar, and Hopkins (1985) discuss the findings of
Slater (1985), a psychologist who did a blind evaluation of nine abduction ex-
46                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

periencers. Slater found no evidence by which the reported abduction experiences
could be accounted for on the basis of a mental disorder. However, the tests used to
evaluate pathology were projective tests (Rorschach, Thematic Apperception Test),
the validity of which is particularly dependent “on the somewhat esoteric skills”
(Carson & Butcher, 1992) of the individual administering them. Although there is
no reason to question Slater’s skills in this regard, the fact remains that the conclu-
sions of this study are based on the interpretation of a single individual.
   Jacobson and Bruno (1994) collected extensive narrative data on the personal his-
tories and abduction experiences of twelve individuals. Based on clinical impression,
they found that none of the narratives contained elements that would suggest “the
phenomenology of any currently recognized psychiatric syndrome” (p. 306). Never -
theless, hospital records showed that two of their subjects had suf fered from a major
psychiatric illness around the time of their abduction experience. This illustrates the
danger in using clinical impression by itself as the method of assessment.
   Each of these studies provides suggestive data, but each is limited in terms of
methodology. Regardless of the ef ficacy of these approaches for the clinic, their
usefulness as research data is compromised by lack of repeatability (because of the
lack of standardized measurement, or the dependence of diagnostic outcome on the
person doing the diagnosis), the absence of control subjects, and/or the small sample
sizes studied.
   Standardized tests for pathology. More extensive studies using standardized in-
struments have been carried out by a number of investigators. Parnell and Sprinkle
(1990) tested over 200 subjects reporting UFO experiences on the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a psychometric instrument that is sen-
sitive to psychopathology. Although the authors conclude that “no overt psychopa-
thology was indicated” (p. 45), a closer examination of their data suggests that
among those subjects who described communication with entities, some had scores
on certain MMPI subscales (e.g., scale 8—the subscale assessing schizophrenic
tendency) that could be considered in the abnormal range.
   In a similar study, Rodeghier et al. (1992) used the MMPI II (revised version of
the MMPI) to evaluate a group of abduction experiencers selected according to a
much more strict definition of “experiencer” than that used by Parnell and Sprinkle.
Again, no overt pathology was indicated for the group as a whole, but was sugges-
tive for certain individuals in the sample.
   Spanos et al. (1993) compared a group of control subjects to 49 individuals who
had reported UFO-related experiences. The UFO reporters were divided into sub-
jects who merely saw unidentified lights and those who had more elaborate close
encounters. To assess psychological health, a battery of tests was administered (the
schizophrenia subscale of the MMPI, Rosenber g’s Self-Esteem Scale, the Magical
Ideation Scale, the Perceptual Aberration Scale, Tellegen’s Differential Personality
Questionnaire). The authors found that their encounter subjects scored no lower on
any measure of psychological health than the controls, and had higher psychologi-
cal health scores than the controls on many of the measurements. They conclude
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                  47

that “these findings provide no support whatsoever for the hypothesis that UFO
reporters are psychologically disturbed” (p. 628), and “the onus is on those who
favor the psychopathology hypothesis to provide support for it” (p. 629).
   Clinical and statistical “normality.” Despite these findings, the implication of
general normality can be quite misleading. “Normal” can be understood in the
clinical sense as “not pathological,” or in the statistical sense as “not significantly
different from average.” From a clinical perspective, the data so far are unambigu-
ous. Most abduction experiences cannot be accounted for in terms of known psy-
chological disorder as measured on standardized psychometric tests.
   This notwithstanding, a number of studies have shown that abduction experienc-
ers are not representative of the general population. For example, Parnell and
Sprinkle (1990) found that subjects claiming communication with aliens had a pro-
pensity for unusual feelings, thoughts, and attitudes; were suspicious, distrustful,
imaginative; and had schizoid tendencies. Ring and Rosing (1990) found that their
subjects reported more sensitivity to nonordinary realities as children. Rodeghier et
al. (1991) found more loneliness, less happiness, and poorer sleep. Mack (1994)
reports being “struck by how many abductees came from broken homes or had one
or more alcoholic parents” (p. 17). Perhaps most troubling, S tone-Carmen (1994)
found that 57% of her subjects reported suicide attempts earlier in life (compared
with 1.28% in the general population).

                           PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES
  It has been suggested (Sagan, 1996; Vallee, 1969) that similar themes appearing in
both historical folklore (e.g., encounters with fairies, elves, angels) and contemporary
abduction accounts indicate a common origin in the human psyche. (For a discussion
of the folkloric dimensions of the abduction experience, see Bullard, 1991.)A number
of psychodynamic theories9 have been proposed to explain the manifestation of these
processes as the abduction experience. Common to these theories is the notion that
abduction experiences are a product of the unconscious mind. The theories dif fer,
however, in regard to their description of these unconscious processes or in regard to
the situations deemed responsible for their activation.
                     (a) Screen Memories for Childhood Abuse
   A correlation between reported abduction experiences and reported childhood abuse
                                                                                  ,
experiences has been consistently found by researchers and clinicians (Laibow 1989;
Powers, 1994a, 1994b; Ring & Rosing, 1990; Rodeghier et al., 1992). An obvious
(although not necessarily correct) interpretation of this correlation is that actual oc-
currences of childhood abuse manifest as false memories of alien abduction.
   For example, Powers (1994a) suggests that the abduction experience serves as a
screen memory for childhood sexual abuse because abduction by aliens “is less
stressful than confronting the trauma of childhood abuse perpetrated by relatives or
family friends” (p. 49), and “recasting the experience [of early childhood abuse] as
48                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

a selection with such a grand purpose [i.e., for the aliens’ cosmic objectives] might
restore meaning to lives threatened by traumatic memories” (Powers, 1994b, p. 46).
   In support of this contention, Powers (1994a) ar gues that elevated PTSD and
PAS scores found in both abduction experiencers and victims of childhood abuse
imply that abduction experiencers are victims of childhood abuse.This she assumes
because elevated scores on these scales are known to be a consequence of trauma.
But why should they be regarded as any better evidence for the trauma of child
abuse than the trauma of alien abduction? The answer, of course, appeals to parsi-
mony, not evidence.
   Nevertheless, a correlation between childhood abuse and the abduction experi-
ence is a persistent finding, and the implication that childhood abuse causes the
abduction experience deserves careful examination. The argument’s appeal to par-
simony especially deserves scrutiny.
   Consider the following psychodynamic assumptions that must underlie this in-
terpretation:
     (a) Alien abduction and examination procedures are inherently less trau-
         matic than childhood abuse, and may even be conceptualized as be-
         nign;
     (b) Among all possible forms that screen memories for child abuse might
         take, this particular motif is a reasonable and likely candidate;
     (c) As screen memories of abuse, abduction experiences “work” (i.e., they
         are a successful psychodynamic strategy for protecting the victim from
         trauma); and
     (d) Total blocking of traumatic memory is an established phenomenon.
   Each of these assumptions is questionable. In regard to the first assumption, it is
not at all apparent that abuse by aliens is less traumatic than abuse by humans. In
fact, abduction experiences are almost universally reported as traumatic (at least
initially). And as Wilson (1990) has pointed out, the denial of alien abductions by
society is an additional stressor for those who would accept their experiences as
veridical.
   In regard to the second assumption (and given that abduction experiences are
indeed traumatic), what psychodynamic mechanism predicts the substitution of one
traumatic event as a screen memory for another? What psychodynamic mechanism
accounts for the choice of such an implausible event for the screen memory?
   In regard to the third assumption, not the least of the dif ficulties with the screen
                                                     ,
memory interpretation is that as a screen memory the abduction experience doesn’t
work, at least not very well or very consistently . PTSD symptoms are common in
the abduction experiencer population. Why are abduction experiences so specifi-
cally and consistently chosen by the unconscious to serve as screen memories when
they are so ineffective in protecting the experiencer from stress?
   Finally, the kind of powerful blocking of traumatic memory hypothesized to be
operating in abuse cases (what Ofshe and Singer , 1994, call “robust repression”)
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                   49

has been seriously questioned. Although it has been ar gued that a “tremendous
volume of data available clearly support the existence of traumatic amnesia or ro-
bust repression” (American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, 1995, p. 8), Ofshe and
Singer (1994) contend that in contrast to the traditional concept of repression as
described in mainstream clinical theory , the mental mechanism for for getting ma-
jor, repeated, and complex life events has developed from neither analytic tradition
nor empirical research. According to their review of the literature, despite the popu-
larity of the concept:

       A citation search of the clinical literature failed to turn up any proposal
       that this sort of powerful mental mechanism might exist for theoretical
       reasons nor did it reveal reports of empirical research demonstrating
       the mechanism’s existence . . . The speculation [about the existence of
       robust repression] and its rapid acceptance are linked to social change
       rather than to scientific progress. [Ofshe & Singer , 1994, pp. 396–97]

   There are other problems for the screen-memory hypothesis. If the abduction
experience is a screen memory , it must be explained why this memory itself re-
mains repressed. It could be ar gued that it is called into play as a defense mecha-
nism only when the memory of actual childhood abuse—through hypnosis, therapy        ,
or serendipity—starts to become unrepressed. But this requires yet additional un-
tested assumptions about the psychodynamics of repression. In other cases, memo-
ries of childhood abuse coexist with abduction memories (Laibow , 1989), present-
ing a similar difficulty for the screen-memory hypothesis.
   Given these issues, the serious investigator must consider whether the require-
ments of the screen-memory interpretation indeed represent a parsimonious expla-
nation for the abduction ex   perience. (On the other hand, the above discussion should
give no comfort to those who would ar gue, conversely, that childhood abuse is a
screen memory for actual alien abductions; the identical problems in psychody-
namic theory and logical ar gument apply.)
   Ultimately, the relationship between reported experiences of childhood abuse and
alien abductions may need to be explained in terms other than those of repression
and screen memory . For example, several studies (Mukerjee, 1995) have shown
that individuals subjected to childhood abuse have a smaller hippocampus than that
of control subjects, and that a smaller hippocampus is correlated with more pro-
nounced symptoms of PTSD and dissociation. The hippocampus is a part of the
brain that deals with short-term memory and may be involved with storage and
retrieval of long-term memories. Moreover , this part of the brain is strongly af-
fected by cortisol, a hormone linked with emotional af fect and disturbing memo-
ries. It is possible, therefore, that childhood abuse alters the brain in a way that
predisposes the individual to dissociation and alterations in memory production
and recall. Whether or not this underlies the link between childhood abuse and
abduction experiences is yet to be studied.
50                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

                                 (b) Birth Memories
   Lawson (1984, 1985) ar gues that the abduction experience is the unconscious’
representation of the birth experience. His theory stems from the psychodynamic
speculations of Grof (1976), who noted perinatal imagery in subjects experiencing
LSD hallucinations. Lawson sees perinatal imagery in abduction experiencers’ de-
scriptions of aliens (they are fetal in appearance), hallways and columns of light
(which are considered symbolic of transport down the birth canal), the shape of the
UFO or its rooms (these are womb-like), doors and other openings (cervix-like),
and any alien equipment that is elongated, tubular , or flat-ended (which Lawson
characterizes as umbilical or placental). Lawson (1985) even suggests that the re-
ported experiences of missing time are memories of the ef fects of oxytocin, a hor -
mone that initiates contractions and has been shown to produce apparent memory
loss in laboratory animals. That is, according to Lawson, abduction amnesia is the
“memory” of fetal “forgetting.”
   For those who might regard such analogies as strained, Lawson (1984) claims
experimental support. He asked hypnotized subjects to imagine an alien abduction.
The stories of eight subjects born by Cesarean section were compared with those of
two subjects who were products of vaginal delivery . Nearly all the Cesarean sub-
jects produced abduction accounts devoid of tunnel-like imagery.
   Lawson regards this finding as consistent with his theory, but the strength of this
conclusion is questionable. First, the analysis suf fers from an inadequate sample
size, a failure to independently verify the subjects’ reported method of birth, a very
limited criterion of birth-imagery , and a post hoc interpretation of narrative sym-
bolism without any protocol for symbol-item selection or validation of interpreter
reliability. In addition, like the Cesarean subjects, one of the two vaginally deliv-
ered subjects also reported no tunnellike imagery.
   Second, much of the imagery referred to in Lawson’ s analysis is related to UFO
entry, that is, subjects describing “being sucked up into the UFO as if through an
extended tunnel” (p. 217). Thus, Lawson’s analysis not only requires accepting the
birth-memory construct per se, but also that the unconscious reverse the order in
which the birth events occurred.
   Finally, there is no compelling evidence that a physiological or cognitive sub-
strate for birth memory even exists in the fetus or newborn.  Although Lawson (1984)
contends that “the factual accuracy of birth memories [is] . . . suf ficiently reliable”
(p. 213), Grof himself acknowledged that “a causal nexus between the actual bio-
logical birth and the unconscious matrixes for these experiences remains to be es-
tablished” (p.98).

                                (c) Abortion Anxiety

  Stacy (1992) opines that the abduction experience, at least the commonly re-
ported aspect (Jacobs, 1992) of the experience dealing with genetic breeding and
hybrid babies, “is in fact a reliving of the abortion experience, whether the latter is
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                  51

actually real or ‘merely’ imaginary” (p. 4). More specifically, he regards it as:

       an attempt to expatiate any lingering guilt associated with the [abor -
       tion]. The hybrid baby, in other words, is nothing less (or more) than
       the aborted fetus brought to life. The “missing” fetus is no longer
       dead, then, but lives on in a “heaven” (outer space) from which it can
       never physically return, perhaps even aboard a ‘Mother’ ship. . . . In a
       metaphorical sense the Grays are avenging angels. Allegorically, they
       represent the souls of all departed, or aborted, fetuses. And the fact
       that the Grays are now responsible for the “missing” fetus . . . ab-
       solves the aborter of . . . guilt. . . . The abduction experience, then,
       serves a fundamental purpose, namely, the reduction of psychological
       tension occasioned by guilt. [Stacy, 1992, p. 4]

   Stacy argues that this theory makes sense even where the abduction experience
continues to be a source of stress, because stress may be less aversive than guilt. He
also ar gues that the “archetypal architecture” of his abduction/abortion scenario
applies not only to women who have experienced abortion, but to women who have
never experienced an abortion (they are still members of a society conflicted by
abortion’s moral implications) and to men (who may share with women the psycho-
logical conflict associated with the abortion issue). And since the theory suggests
unconscious processes, the abduction experiencer need not ever be aware of abor -
tion anxiety.
   Stacy’s theory casts a wide net, but this is both a strength and a weakness. While
it can account for diversity within the abduction experiencer population, it is dif fi-
cult to imagine anyone who could not be a candidate for S    tacy’s hypothesized abor-
tion anxiety (except perhaps very young children). In any case, systematic tests of
this hypothesis are yet to be carried out.
   (d) The Collective Unconscious, the Ima ginal Realm, and Human Ev olution
  Psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed a theory of the unconscious mind which he
felt had relevance to the UFO phenomenon. As described by Jung:

       In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly
       personal nature . . . there exists a second psychic system of a collec-
       tive, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all indi-
       viduals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but
       is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which
       can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form
       to certain psychic contents. [Jung, 1936, p. 60]

   Jung (1959) suggested that some “flying saucer” sightings might be a manifesta-
tion of archetypal imagery associated with this collective unconscious. (He ac-
52                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

knowledged there may be a physical basis to some reports as well.) Grosso (1985) has
argued that the abduction experience itself is a product of the collective unconscious.
   Specifically, Grosso regards abduction experiences as the collective unconscious’
symbolic (archetypal) response to environmental imperatives. (That is, human ex-
ploitation and irresponsibility in regard to an endangered planet take on symbolic
form as unsympathetic aliens determined to exploit us in order to revitalize their
own dying species.) In turn, he sees these experiences as a driving force behind
evolution of the human psyche.
   Ring (1992) finds Grosso’s ideas highly relevant to his own study of close-encoun-
ter experiences. Like Grosso, Ring regards such experiences as evidence for the evo-
lution of consciousness. More specifically , he sees them as “helping to develop our
latent capacities for imaginal perception” (p. 240). Ring’ s use of the term imaginal
should not be confused with imaginary. The distinction between the terms stems from
the work of Corbin (1972) who hypothesized the existence of an alternate reality
accessed by visionaries and mystics during altered states of consciousness. Corbin
describes this world as ontologically real, that is, as real or more real than that expe-
rienced during everyday consciousness. Ring argues that abduction experiences come
from contact with this imaginal realm, and that “it can be expected that over time the
evolutionary momentum [associated with these experiences] will establish and stabi-
lize these imaginal domains as our shared reality .” (p. 240)
   Ring and Grosso are not the only students of ufology to ar gue for a connection
between UFO phenomena, other realities, and evolutionary forces.       Thompson (1991)
sees archetypal imagery in UFO encounters. McKenna (1987) suggests that “the
extraterrestrial is the human oversoul in its general and particular expression on
the planet” (p.17). S trieber (in Dabb & Langevin, 1990), considers the aliens as
“midwifing our birth into the nonphysical world—which is their origin,” and repre-
                                                                   g
sentative of “an evolutionary step beyond ours which has emer ed into our world as
a result of actions on the non-physical plane” (p.41). Vallee (1990) suggests that
“in a Jungian interpretation . . . the human unconscious could be projecting ahead
of itself the imagery which is necessary for our own long-term survival beyond the
unprecedented crises of the 20th century” (p. 1 16). Mack (1994) concludes that
“the abduction phenomenon, it seems clear, is about what is yet to come. It pre-
sents, quite literally , visions of alternative futures” (p. 422). And physicist Wolf
(1994) takes the position that:

       UFO experiences are from the imaginal realm and therefore have a
       different but “real” feeling to them as compared to ordinary experi-
       ences. . . . They are not the same as so called solid-reality experiences
       that we commonly experience in everyday life. I am also not saying
       they are fantasies or hallucinations. [W olf, 1994, p. 371]

  Rather, Wolf regards this manifestation of the imaginal realm as related to the
quantum-mechanical nature of reality, in which the interplay of consciousness and
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the physical world is theoretically codependent.
  Despite the obvious appeal these Jungian and quantum-mechanical concepts have
for those who feel uncomfortable with both the physical and the imaginary inter -
pretations of the abduction experience, it must be kept in mind that these notions
are abstract theoretical models, not descriptions of existing experimental data. In
point of fact, the ideas of a collective unconscious (especially a rapidly or
intragenerationally evolving one), the imaginal realm, and the extrapolation of quan-
tum-mechanical theory to events beyond the subatomic world (i.e., their intrusion
into everyday conscious experience) are themselves highly speculative. Certainly ,
their application to the abduction phenomenon is also highly speculative.
                        (e) Altered States of Consciousness
  Evans (1989) has suggested that various altered states of consciousness (highway
hypnosis, out-of-body experiences, etc.) may account for UFO abduction experiences.
This scenario accounts for the emergence of unconscious material into consciousness
as a function of the unique characteristics of the altered state. Bullard (1987) de-
scribes eleven cases (out of the 270 he evaluated) in which the abduction experience
begins without any apparent intervention by UFOs or entities and which may be
characterized as primarily or entirely mental. For example, in one case (case #209)
the experiencer reported physical interaction and communication with an alien ab-
ductor for a period of time during which the experiencer remained in the presence of
fully conscious investigators (who observed no attempted abduction in progress).
Bullard refers to such cases as “psychic abductions” during which the altered state:
       may trigger awareness of . . . ferment underway in the unconscious.
       These conditions weaken conscious self-control and preoccupation with
       external events so a witness takes notice of his inner self and the world
       of mysterious contents awaiting him there. The witness slips into this
       [altered state] . . . unprepared to believe that [this is] responsible for
       the vivid, weird pseudo-reality of the experience. [Bullard, 1987, p.
       361]
  However valid the altered-state explanation may be for some abduction experi-
ences, Bullard’s cases represent just 4% of his sample. It is unlikely that altered
states account for a significant proportion of abduction reports.

                           ENVIRONMENTAL THEORIES
                      (a) Tectonic Stress and “Earth Lights”
  Devereux (1989) and Persinger (1990) have ar gued that “anomalous luminous
phenomena” (ALP) are propagated by stresses and strains within the earth’ s crust,
and that these products of tectonic stress are often reported as UFOs. Persinger
(1990) has related this theory of tectonic stress to a theory of neurophysiological
54                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

susceptibility to electromagnetic fields. According to this theory , electromagnetic
fields are capable of af fecting human brain activity , particularly in the temporal
lobes. Because of this, any event or condition that induces stimulation of the tempo-
ral lobes (including ALP and other electromagnetic phenomena) may lead to anoma-
lous experiences and memory, especially in individuals who display characteristics
of enhanced temporal-lobe lability. Persinger suggests that this relationship can not
only explain UFO sightings, but abduction experiences as well:

       Anomalous experiences that comprise contactee and abduction reports
       are correlated with enhanced activity within the temporal lobes of the
       human brain. . . . The personalities of normal people who display
       enhanced temporal lobe activity are dominated by . . . . a rich fantasy
       or subjective world. . . . more frequent experiences of a sense of pres-
       ence . . . [and] exotic beliefs. . . . Because ALP generated by tectonic
       strain could af fect the brain of the nearby observer , some abduction
       and contactee experiences might be attributable to this source.”
       [Persinger, 1990, pp. 129–131).

   In support of his theory, Persinger has attempted to simulate the ef fects of tempo-
ral-lobe excitation by inducing magnetic fields applied directly to a subject’ s head.
One description of the results of such a procedure has been presented by research
psychologist Blackmore (1994) who served as a subject in Persinger ’s laboratory.
Blackmore experienced unusual physical sensations (such as being yanked up by the
shoulders or having limbs pulled), emotional states (anger , fear), and alterations in
consciousness (disorientation). Although these experiences do not have the specific
structure and organization of an abduction experience, both Blackmore and Persinger
would argue they provide the raw material from which (embellished through various
cognitive processes) classic abduction experiences might be created.
   This hypothesized relationship between abduction experiences and electromag-
netic fields is intriguing, but several factors greatly reduce its status as a potential
explanation. First, the merits of the tectonic stress theory have been widely ques-
tioned (e.g., Grosso, 1990; Jacobs, 1990; Long, 1990; Rutkowski, 1984, 1990, 1994),
both in regard to the interpretation of evidence claimed to support it, and in regard
to the theoretical bases for the hypothesis itself.
   Second, because the energy characteristics of ALP (especially their energy prop-
erties at a distance) are largely unknown, it is not known whether the hypothesized
relationship between ALP and human brain activity is even possible. Persinger
(1990) notes:

       The experimental procedure that evokes experiences most similar to
       the more extreme UFO encounters is the electrical stimulation associ-
       ated with neurosurgery. It involves very focal current induction (about
       1 cc) within the brain. These similarities suggest that the magnetic
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                   55

       fields associated with ALP involve highly localized, fluxline-like dis-
       tributions of energy. [Persinger, 1990, p. 131]

   Persinger’s guess about ALP notwithstanding, until the energy characteristics of
ALP have actually been determined, their potential for inducing abduction experi-
ences cannot be ascertained.
   Finally, the hypothesized correlation between abduction experiencers and tempo-
ral-lobe lability has not been confirmed. Spanos et al. (1993) assessed temporal lobe
lability with the 52-item temporal-lobe subscale of the Personal Philosophy Inven-
tory, an assessment instrument designed by Persinger and Makarec (1987) specifi-
cally to measure traits associated with temporal-lobe lability . Using Persinger and
Makerec’s own measure of this variable, Spanos et al. found no dif ferences between
control subjects and experiencers. This finding bears not only on the ALP hypothesis.
It is also contrary to any suggestion that temporal-lobe lability , by virtue of its own
spontaneous activity, may be a significant cause of abduction experiences.
                                (b) Allergic Reactions
  Budden (1994) ar gues for a much wider contribution of electromagnetic events
than that hypothesized by Devereux and Persinger:

       The experiences of visitation by a variety of other worldly beings . . .
       are the mental and physiological products of a range of environmental
       illnesses. . . . Individuals whose bodily systems are severely af fected
       are given spontaneous warnings that their health is at risk, or even
       better, are cured at a stroke and transformed by events which overtake
       them. These are called close encounter experiences. [Budden, 1994,
       p. 1]

  Budden’s hypothesis is based on several premises:
   (a) The environment (or more specifically, “electronic and electrical pol-
       lution”) is a significant health hazard;
   (b) This health hazard creates allergic sensitivities to nutritional and bio-
       chemical substances;
   (c) Electronic pollution causes widespread hallucinatory experience
       (Budden estimates 20% of the population may be susceptible); and
   (d) These hallucinations manifest in consciousness as symbolic represen-
       tations of the health hazards being encountered.
  However, Budden fails to provide a body of evidence in support of these basic
premises. Instead, he presents a series of case studies in which individuals who live
near apparent EM sources have had apparently hallucinatory experiences. Other -
wise, he takes declarative positions without documentation. Consider the follow-
ing:
56                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

       [A] commonplace way [for an individual] to acquire allergies is to be
       in an electrical or electromagnetic field . . . and during this time eat or
       drink something or be exposed to a common substance that they are
       already allergic to. . . . The body then ‘remembers’ the frequency of
       the field . . . and when they are exposed to the same frequency again .
       . . they react aller gically. . . . We have therefore, a peculiar situation
       where there is an interchangability between food, chemical substance
       and electronic signal. [Budden, 1994, pp. 5–6]

       For an individual whose body has had to cope with a number of nutri-
       tional, chemical, and electromagnetical assaults upon it there comes a
       point . . . where their body will begin to give them messages. . . .
       These may begin as weird dreams that have a super -real quality to
       them, and develop into fully formed figures seen when the person is
       awake. These commonly appear beside the bed at night. . . . This is in
       fact a method by which the mind is trying to calm the aller          gic
       individual’s system in a very fundamental way , thereby reducing the
       stress upon their body.” [Budden, 1994, p. 7]

   These and other assertions are presented as fact. Of course, none actually enjoys
widespread acceptance or empirical support, and Budden does not help the situa-
tion by failing to provide citations for his claims. (He does provide a reference list
but the specific relation between reference and claim is unclear .)

                  THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (ET) HYPOTHESIS
  Perhaps the most provocative explanation for abduction experiences is that they
are essentially veridical reports of actual abductions by apparently extraterrestrial
(ET) entities. 8 Because more attention has been directed toward this hypothesis
than any other, the perspectives of both advocates and detractors will be examined
in detail.
                     (a) Arguments Against the ET Hypothesis
  Many critics of the ET hypothesis ar gue that in the absence of tangible proof,
parsimony requires that the ET hypothesis be dismissed. The relationship between
parsimony and evidence has been discussed already and will not be reiterated here.
Other a priori ar guments for dismissal are discussed below .
   UFO sightings are not caused by spacecraft, so abduction experiences are not
caused by aliens. It would be dif ficult to take the ET explanation for abduction
experiences seriously without also taking the ET explanation for UFOs seriously .
                                                                                     .
Therefore, dismissal of the latter has been used as a basis for dismissal of the former
  This approach maintains that the UFO evidence fails to support anything other
than prosaic explanations. It is based on the observation that most sightings are at
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 57

least potentially ex plainable as mundane phenomena (hoaxes, misperceptions of
natural events, misidentification of conventional objects, secret military devices,
etc.). However, this only demonstrates that no single explanation provides a satisfy-
ing account of the sighting literature, not that prosaic explanations can explain all
sightings.
   In fact, global analyses of various UFO databases consistently produce a percent-
age of sighting reports that do not yield to any prosaic explanation (e.g., about!/3 of
all cases examined in the Air Force-commissioned Condon report, 1969). Rather
than requiring dismissal of the ET hypothesis, these data require that it continue to
be considered.
   ETs do not exist. Although no one has proven the existence of ET s, there have
been attempts to demonstrate the probability of advanced ET civilizations based on
various astronomical and sociological assumptions. These ef forts (Drake, 1976;
Shklovskii & Sagan, 1966) generally estimate the potential number of advanced
civilizations on the order of millions, if not billions. The existence of ET s is so
statistically probable that their absence would be a far greater anomaly than their
existence.
   ETs would not be humanoid. The probability that alien beings would bear any
resemblance to ourselves is seen by some observers (e.g., Dobzhansky , 1972) as
exceedingly remote because evolution seems so dependent on both the specific de-
mands of the environment and on the opportunistic characteristics of the evolu-
tionary process. Accordingly, the humanoid description of alien abductors is con-
sidered enough in itself to disqualify abduction experiences as veridical. However,
there are reasons why intelligent ETs might be expected to resemble human beings.
   To begin with, the issue here is not life per se, but intelligent life that could
master its environment and develop the kind of technology that would be necessary
for space travel. Such beings would require personal characteristics that allow them
to manipulate their environment, and an environment conducive to technological
development. Swords (1989, 1995) has made a persuasive case that such an envi-
ronment would necessarily be similar to our own, and that evolutionary pressures
in such an environment would produce beings not dissimilar from ourselves. That
is, humanoid ETs are not inconsistent with conventional theory and reports of such
beings cannot be legitimately dismissed as inherently implausible.
   ETs cannot get here from there. Another argument against the ET hypothesis is
that interstellar distances are so formidable that the time and ener gy necessary to
traverse them makes interstellar travel (and therefore visiting ET s) extremely un-
likely (Horowitz, 1994). However, these problems may not be the unavoidable ob-
stacles they appear to be.
   For example, physicist Alcubierre (1994) has “shown how, within the framework
of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, it is possible to
modify a spacetime in a way that allows a spaceship to travel . . . faster than the
speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region” (p. L73). That is,
by reducing the distance to be covered rather than increasing acceleration the prob-
58                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

lem of distance is obviated without violating any laws of nature as we currently
understand them; and because light would be traveling in space-time along with
the traveler, no time dilation would be experienced. In addition, Szpir (1994) has
elaborated on the possibility of circumventing the ener gy requirements associated
with such an effort. Of course, the technological problems necessary to implement
this scheme may prove insurmountable. But it seems premature to discount the
feasibility of space travel within the constructs of accepted physical theory.
   ETs would establish overt contact. The fact that abduction reports describe co-
                                                           ,
vert rather than overt contact is seen by some (e.g., Baker1989) as evidence against
the veridicality of these reports. In prototypical form, the question raised is “Why
don’t they land on the White House lawn?” (This question implicitly assumes that
if they did, the White House would tell us about it.)
   But by what standards should we predict alien agendas? The “anthropomorphic
fallacy” (the assumption that we can attribute the behavior of other animals to
human motives and feelings) is well known among behavioral psychologists as an
error in reasoning. Certainly , the same caution should apply to speculation about
alien behaviors. That notwithstanding, there are reasons consistent with human
                                                                           o
behavior as to why an alien civilization might not want overt contact. (T name just
two: We may be subjects of a research protocol that overt contact would violate;
they may be up to no good and don’ t want us to know about it.) The argument that
abduction reports must be dismissed because the reputed behavior is not overt is
based on fallacious reasoning or , at best, limited imagination.
   Moreover, it by no means represents a consensus of contemporary thought.
Rodeghier (1996) surveyed over 500 scientists (members of professional organiza-
tions in astronomy, evolution science, geology, psychology, and zoology) and found
that about 38% regarded the probability “that an extraterrestrial civilization suc-
cessful at interstellar space travel, having discovered Earth, will refrain from overt
contact with humans” as at least .50. That is, they regard it at least as likely that
aliens would refrain from overt contact than engage in it.
                 (b) Arguments in Support of the ET Explana tion
    Proponents of the ET hypothesis take the position that a veridical interpretation
of the abduction experience is, at least, not inconsistent with the reported charac-
teristics of the phenomenon, and that in the absence of empirical support for more
parsimonious theories, its consideration is not inappropriate. Furthermore, they
point to a number of features of the abduction experience as supporting the ET
hypothesis. These features are discussed below.
    Abduction accounts are consistent. Those who argue for the veridicality of ab-
duction experiences cite the consistency of the accounts, down to very specific de-
tails. For example, Jacobs (1992) regards “the strongest evidence presented [to be]
. . . the congruence of narrative and the richness of exact detail” (p. 239).   While
individual investigators such as Jacobs have documented this detail in regard to
their own cases, Bullard (1987, 1994) has compared cases from a wide range of
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 59

investigators. Based on his exhaustive analysis of abduction experience content,
Bullard (1987) concluded:

       The list of resemblances and recurrences goes on and on to build an
       impressive case for the one point this study proves beyond a reason-
       able doubt—abduction reports tell a consistent story. No accident, ran-
       dom hoax or purely personal fantasy could reasonably explain so much
       consistency throughout this sizable body of reports. [Bullard, 1987, p.
       353]

   In a more recent analysis, Bullard (1994) notes that both prominent aspects and
obscure elements of the abduction experience recur across investigators: “The range
of differences among major features and main patterns is quite narrow. . . . Abduc-
tion reports seem to converge toward a unity of content irrespective of the investi-
gator” (p. 615).
   Although consistency is well documented, the source of this consistency is a sub-
ject of debate. Critics of the ET hypothesis are quick to point out that the abduction
experience has had so much media exposure, and fictional depictions of aliens are
so rife in our culture, that the raw material for fantasy production is readily avail-
able. For example, Kottmeyer (1989) describes numerous instances in which fic-
tional material is consistent with reported abduction experiences, including UFO
characteristics, alien descriptions, genetic experimentation, implants, and alien mo-
tivations.
   Notwithstanding, the argument that this material is the source of fantasy produc-
tion requires that fantasy is itself a reasonable explanation for the abduction expe-
rience. As discussed previously, the data do not support this contention.
   Regardless, it is not consistency per se that has grabbed the attention of research-
ers, but the implicit notion that this consistency is much greater than would be
expected by chance. For example, Mack (1994) refers to “the high degree of consis-
tency of detailed abduction accounts” (p. 43). But “high” relative to what? Jacobs
                                             g
(1992) refers to “the extraordinary conver ence of the abductee narratives” (p. 302).
But by what yardstick is this conver gence extraordinary?
   Certainly the standard of measure cannot be subjective impression. That measure
of chance is notoriously inconsistent with empirical reality. Rather, chance must be
determined by statistical tests of probability . To determine chance in regard to ab-
duction content, one need only compare formal abduction accounts with those so-
licited from a random sample of the population (a control group).         The Lawson
(1977), Randles (1994a) and Lynn and Pezzo (1994) experiments discussed earlier
are attempts at this. As previously mentioned, none represents a definitive analysis
of relative consistency, and their results demonstrate consistencies and inconsisten-
cies alike. Nevertheless, their findings at least suggest caution in using content
consistency as a criterion for abduction-experience veridicality.
   One argument that has been raised in response to this plea for caution is that very
60                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

specific content—not well known outside the investigator community—also ap-
pears in a frequency that could not be expected by chance. For instance, Jacobs
(1992) refers to “many other abduction procedures [which] have never been publi-
cized or written about even in the most esoteric UFO literature, yet virtually all
abductees describe them” (p. 302). Of course, it is precisely this absence of refer -
ence in the literature that makes an evaluation of such content impossible.
   Perhaps one example of this seemingly unique content is revealed in Bullard’ s
(1994) survey, which indicates that several investigators have obtained reports of
specific alien insignia (for example, a phoenix or winged serpent). But since no one
has asked a population of control subjects to suggest (imagine) a motif for such
insignia, nor tabulated the precise proportion of abduction experiencers who report
this motif (relative to those who report insignia of any kind), it is not known if the
probability of such specific content is indeed beyond chance expectation. Until such
tests are carried out, the significance of abduction-report consistency will remain a
matter of subjective impression.
   Physical symptoms are indicative of actual abductions. Abduction experiencers
often report marks on the body , or other physical symptoms they suspect may be
associated with an actual abduction event. Not uncommonly , these are (at least
apparently) mundane conditions such as blemishes, bruises, nosebleeds, and famil-
iar discomforts. In other cases, more serious or unusual skin rashes or other mark-
ings are reported. And in still other cases, serious scars of unknown (unremem-
bered) origin are present.
   These conditions have been considered by some as evidence of alien abduction
procedures. Mack (1994) regards “the physical changes and lesions af fecting the
bodies of experiencers” as a critical factor in understanding the abduction experi-
ence. Hopkins et al. (1992) regard the existence of “puzzling scars on [the] body
without remembering how or where they were acquired” as a “key indicator” of the
“event-level reality of UFO abductions.” Jacobs (1992) criticizes alternative expla-
nations of the abduction experience as failing to “explain the unusual physical ef-
fects apparently derived from the abduction event” (p. 302).
   Rightly or wrongly, most of these “symptoms” can be easily dismissed as having
a mundane origin. It is more difficult to dismiss serious scars in this way. Given the
sometimes inaccessible locations for these scars, their stereotypical appearance as
“scoop-marks,” and their initial discovery early in childhood, such mundane expla-
nations may not suffice. One critical issue is the extent to which serious scars may
exist without recollection of their origin. According to a Roper survey (Hopkins et
al., 1992), 8% of the general population report such scars. According to Bullard’s
investigator survey (1994), at least 25% of the experiencer population report such a
condition. It is not clear how accurate Bullard’s investigators’ estimates may be (or
even if the investigators independently verified their experiencers’ claims). But if
the estimates are correct, this does indeed represent a much greater prevalence of
forgotten scars in the experiencer population than in the general population.
   Abduction experiencers show signs of PTSD. Although PTSD is understood as a
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response to stressful life experiences, it may be impossible to determine whether
such experiences are objectively real or imaginary (Laibow and Laue, 1993; Wil-
son, 1990), or whether the precipitating stressor is itself veridically recalled. Ac-
cordingly, the presence of PTSD symptomatology is not evidence that abduction
experiences are veridical.
   The abduction experience explains the covert nature of UFO activity. As men-
tioned before, it is hard to imagine acceptance of abduction reports as veridical
without concomitant acceptance of UFOs as spacecraft.And certainly, a secret alien
agenda provides a rationale for ET visitation without overt contact. Essentially, the
reasoning here is that abduction experiences must be real because UFOs are real,
and UFOs must be real because abductions are. However , this argument uses each
proposition as both premise and conclusion. As such it must be rejected on logical
grounds.
   Abduction experiences are subjectively valid and emotionally compelling. As
emotionally compelling as an abduction experience may be (to both the experiencer
and the investigator or therapist listening to the experiencer ’s account) it has been
well documented that emotional validity is not an accurate criterion of objective
validity (see earlier discussion).
   Abduction experiences are shared within families and across generations. Al-
though experiencers often report that family members have had abduction or UFO-
related experiences, there are two reasons why this fact cannot be regarded as evi-
dence of the veridicality of such experiences. First, the reliability of such correla-
tions have been dif ficult to establish (Haines, 1994b). Second, although a familial
linkage could be consistent with real abductions, familial linkage exists for person-
ality, psychopathology, sleep disorders, and environments. Each of these has also
been suggested as a cause of the abduction experience. Therefore, even when prop-
erly documented, such relationships cannot distinguish among these alternatives.
   Abduction experiences are not random. They occur to the same individuals
repeatedly. The nonrandom nature of the phenomenon must certainly be a clue to
                                                  ,
the cause of the abduction experience. However personality, psychopathology, sleep
disorders, environments, and other suggested causes of the abduction experience
could also lead to multiple experiences for the same individual. The nonrandom
nature of the experience is no more consistent with the veridicality of the reports
than with these alternative explanations.
   Children’s abduction experiences suggest veridicality. Abduction experiences
have been reported by very young children. Kerth and Haines (1992) have shown
that the content of these reports dif fers from the imaginative productions solicited
from nonexperiencer children. It has been ar gued that this is particularly dif ficult
to explain in prosaic terms.
   For example, Mack (1994) cites “the reports of abductions by children as young
as two or three years of age” (p. 43) as one of the five critical aspects of the abduc-
tion experience in need of explanation. Hopkins (1994) has devised a picture-rec-
ognition test (comprised of a stereotypical alien face and character depictions from
62                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

popular culture) to “serve as an aid in confirming or disconfirming” (p. 131) ab-
duction experiences.
   However, children’s reports may not be the challenge to conventional theory that
some believe. Ceci and colleagues have carried out a program of research which
“suggests that source misattribution could be a mechanism underlying children’ s
false beliefs about having experienced fictitious events” (Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman,
& Bruck, 1994, p. 304). Source misattribution refers to the conviction or claim of
remembering something which in reality was only thought about, or suggested by
others. Ceci et al. cite a body of evidence which shows that “all children are suscep-
tible to making source misattributions, [but] very young children may be dispropor   -
tionately vulnerable” (p. 304). This susceptibility exists “even when the topic in-
volves reporting specific and personal things . . . such as alleged genital touching”
(p. 305).
   Moreover, in studies using videotapes of both real and fictitious (misattributed)
accounts, professional researchers and clinicians performed no better than chance
                                       s
at distinguishing among the children’ narratives. Indeed, these professionals “found
it dif ficult to imagine such plausible, internally coherent narratives being fabri-
cated” (p. 316). Ceci et al. conclude:

       These findings suggest that it is possible to mislead preschoolers into
       believing that they experienced fictional events, and to do so with
       increasing conviction and vividness over time. An examination of the
       children’s videotaped statements reveals internally coherent, detailed,
       yet false, narratives. Adults who were naive to the validity of the
       children’s claims about fictional events often professed confidence in
       their accuracy. Thus it is not only possible to mislead children, but
                                                                        .
       also to fool adults who are unaware of their experimental history[Ceci
       et al., 1994, p. 315]

  Clearly then, a researcher ’s or clinician’ s intuitive sense about a child’ s testi-
mony (let alone the intuitive sense of the child’ s parents) says nothing about the
validity of that tes timony. And the testimony’ s detail, coherence, or consistency
with adult testimony, is of significance only in regard to the child’s opportunity for
misattribution. As difficult as it may be to document such influence, a child’s expo-
sure to books, movies, television, the media, and the casual conversations of par -
ents, peers, teachers, and the occasional stranger , provide more than ample oppor -
tunity for misattribution to occur. Parental assurance that their child had no oppor -
tunity for exposure to such influences is naive, or at best unfalsifiable. In addition,
a perhaps counterintuitive finding from recent research (Brainerd, Reyna, & Brandse,
1995) suggests that false memories acquired by children may even be more persis-
                                                                gument that children’s
tent (retained over time) than true memories. In any case, the ar
abduction testimony is somehow less assailable than that of adults does not seem to
be defensible on scientific grounds.
                APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                63

   Multiple-witness cases indicate a real event. Numerous reports exist in the lit-
erature where an abduction experience has been shared by two or more individuals.
Some of these cases are celebrated as abduction “classics,” such as the Betty and
Barney Hill case (Fuller, 1966). Others, while not having achieved such status, are
extremely well documented (e.g., the Buf f Ledge incident investigated by Webb,
1994; the Allagash incident investigated by Fowler , 1993). Carpenter (1991) and
Haines (1994) have provided content analyses of other multiple abduction reports.
   In some cases (e.g., Betty and Barney Hill), the individuals involved were family
members or very close friends. Such relationships could allow for Shared Psychotic
Disorder, a psychiatric condition described in the DSM IV (American Psychiatric
Association, 1994) as the adoption of the delusional (psychotic) beliefs of one indi-
vidual by another individual with whom a close relationship exists. Typically, such
relationships are characterized as long-standing and involving individuals who have
lived together for a long time—perhaps in social isolation—and where the indi-
vidual with the initial psychosis is the dominant partner in the relationship.
   Although this may seem to be a plausible explanation for shared abduction expe-
riences, the disorder is quite rare and must involve not just one, but two or more
individuals who have acquired a psychotic disorder . Given the normality of the
experiencer population in general, the likelihood of mental disorder accounting for
the abduction experience should decrease as the number of individuals sharing the
experience increases. Furthermore, in most shared abduction experience cases, the
relationship of the individuals involved simply does not fit the profile associated
with the disorder.
   For example, in the Buff Ledge case (Webb, 1994) the two primary experiencers
(as well as a number of subsidiary witnesses) were acquaintances at a summer camp,
shared little detail regarding their conscious experiences with each other or anyone
else, became aware of their own participation in an apparent abduction only many
years later during hypnosis, were unaware of the specific events described by their
counterparts, had not been in contact with each other for years or even decades, and
have remained anonymous making no attempt whatever to capitalize on their re-
ported experiences.
   Such experiences cannot readily be attributed to hoax, susceptibility to sugges-
tion, or psychopathology. These cases may provide the greatest challenge to prosaic
explanations of the abduction experience.


                         SUMMARY     AND   CONCLUSIONS
  1. Hoaxes. Because independent evidence of an abduction is usually unavail-
able, the establishment of a hoax often depends on evaluation of the credibility of
the claimant. Given the lar ge number of abduction experiences that have been re-
ported, it would be unreasonable to expect that in no case was a hoax perpetrated.
On the other hand, in very few cases does the behavior of the reporter suggest
64                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

motivation for such an act. Deliberate hoaxing is not a likely source for the vast
majority of abduction accounts.
   2. Hypnosis. Experiments demonstrate convincingly that hypnotically retrieved
memory is often unreliable. However , the degree to which this research can be
generalized to the kind of experience reported for abductions is not completely
known, and some experimental evidence may actually be consistent with enhanced
memory retrieval for this kind of experience. By no means does this imply that
investigators or mental health professionals can be cavalier about the use of hypno-
sis, or that hypnosis can be exonerated as a causal factor in abduction experiences.
But it is premature to claim that research already requires the dismissal of hypnoti-
cally retrieved abduction accounts.
   3. Fantasy Proneness. Several studies have failed to provide experimental sup-
port for the fantasy-prone hypothesis. The data do not rule out the possibility that
fantasy proneness may account for a small number of abduction experiences, but
they do indicate that fantasy proneness cannot serve as a general explanation.
   4. The false-memory syndrome. Clearly, no responsible therapist should ignore
the implications of the false-memory syndrome. But what is its scientific status in
regard to the abduction experience? Nash (1994) has cautioned therapists to be
aware of both false positives (incorrectly accepting) and false negatives (incorrectly
rejecting) when dealing with recovered memories of abuse. Although the abuse
literature provides some evidence for both, in most cases accusations of abuse can
neither be proved nor disproved, and the prevalence of false positives and false
negatives remains largely unestablished. Certainly this is the case in regard to the
abduction experience. In the absence of independent documentation, and given the
limitations of clinical impression as a standard by which to test the validity of
abduction accounts, the extent of clinically induced false memory for abductions
will remain unknown.
   5. Personality. Numerous personality measures have demonstrated that as a group
the experiencer population is clinically normal, but atypical in a variety of ways.
Some of these characteristics may be consistent with personality traits associated
with suspect syndromes such as fantasy proneness or boundary deficit. However ,
specific tests for these conditions have been disconfirmatory, equivocal, or undone.
   6. Sleep anomalies. The relationship between abduction experiences and sleep
anomalies (e.g., narcolepsy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations) has, by vari-
                                                                            ,
ous theorists, been claimed, assumed, or (conversely) dismissed. However the rela-
tionship has not been adequately tested.
   7. Psychopathology. Perhaps more than any other variable, the presence of psy-
chopathology in the experiencer population has been systematically studied. The
results indicate that formally recognized psychopathology does not exist to any
greater degree in the experiencer population than it does in the general population.
   8. Psychodynamic theories. Abduction experiences have been explained as the
unconscious’ response to childhood abuse, birth memory , abortion anxiety , envi-
ronmental crises, unique characteristics of altered states, and the unconscious’ own
                 APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                 65

evolutionary development. Although abduction experiences do contain elements
that are consistent with psychodynamic symbolism, the ability of psychodynamic
theory to account for a given mental experience in such a wide variety of ways
requires that it be evaluated in terms of empirical tests, not appeals to analogy. The
suggested applications of psychodynamic mechanisms to the abduction experience
are as yet untested, or ultimately untestable.
   9. Environmental theories. Experiments which directly establish a relationship
between environmental conditions (e.g., electromagnetic allergens, tectonic stress)
and abduction experiences have not been carried out. And although debated by
their advocates, most researchers concur that the plausibility of the assumptions
underlying these hypotheses is yet to be demonstrated.
   10. ET hypothesis. Arguments for dismissing the veridicality of abduction re-
ports on a priori grounds are logically flawed. On the other hand, ET advocates’
strongest challenges to alternative theory are not crucial tests of veridicality .

                                    DISCUSSION
  Facts acquire significance only when related to theory, and theory remains empty
in the absence of supporting fact. For fact and theory to be of any relevance, a
relationship between them must be established. This is especially important, and
especially difficult, when dealing with a phenomenon such as the abduction experi-
ence. As Morrison (1972) has stated:

       If we are to believe any hypothesis, however plausible or implausible,
       concerning new events—particularly those that do not satisfy the easy
       quality of being reproducible at will by those who undertake to set up
       a laboratory for the purpose—then we must find . . . multiple, inde-
       pendent chains of evidence satisfying a link-by-link test. [p. 280]

   Mindful of this, what can be said of the various factors hypothesized to be causes
of the abduction experience? Many theories that seem both parsimonious and rea-
sonable have been advanced to explain the abduction experience. But these theories
have received little empirical support, or are yet to be adequately studied.
   It may be ar gued that any single explanation of the abduction experience will
necessarily be inadequate because the phenomenon is multicausal, and that the
abduction experience as a whole can be explained only by considering all the pro-
saic explanations in their entirety . For example, if (as the data suggest) at least
some abduction reports are hoaxes, and at least some the result of pathology , fan-
tasy, sleep anomalies, etc., perhaps in total this can constitute a complete explana-
tion (in statistical terms, can account for all of the variance in the data). However ,
the data (at least as currently available) suggest that each explanation can account
for only a small proportion of all cases, and that even in the aggregate they fall
short as a complete explanation.
66                        JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

   The notion that the abduction experience is multicausal can lead to an alternative
argument; namely, that it requires a constellation of factors to be present in an
individual (for example, that a person must be both fantasy prone and suffer from a
sleep disorder). The research so far has tried to isolate specific causative factors
rather than look for their co-occurrence, but it is not likely that such an effort could
provide a solution. This is because of the “conjunction rule” (Matlin, 1994). As
applied to the abduction experience, it states that the proportion of experiencers
with two or more coexisting conditions can never be greater than (i.e., is limited
by) the proportion of experiencers with the least common constituent condition. 10
Accordingly, the likelihood of explaining the abduction experience through coex-
isting causes is even less than for explaining it in terms of cumulative causes.
   If the evidence offered so far cannot completely explain the abduction experience
in prosaic terms, other explanations are required. The most prominent alternative
is the ET hypothesis. But here again, there is as yet no evidence that requires this
explanation. And in the absence of such evidence, the ar gument that abduction
experiences are veridical strains credulity on many fronts.
   For example, it has been suggested that we cannot remember abductions because
alien procedures cause for getting; that although hypnosis produces unreliable
memory in all other cases, it produces reliable recall of alien abductions; that we
cannot see the abductors’ craft because they can be made invisible; that we cannot
secure an alien implant or artifact because they are made to self-destruct upon in-
trusion; that aliens can be constrained by no barrier because they can pass through
solid matter; that space flight is no obstacle because the prohibition against faster -
than-light travel can be circumvented.
   All this and more asks much of the ET advocate. So much so, that an appeal to
open-mindedness may be necessary for the hypothesis even to be considered. I have
argued elsewhere that despite these demands on credulity such a case can fairly and
legitimately be made (Appelle, 1995).
   First, our knowledge base about memory encoding and retrieval does not pre-
clude the possibility that recovered abduction memories may be veridical. Second,
phenomena that seem impossible may be only a matter of technological develop-
ment rather than a violation of accepted physical law. Third, it may be foolhardy to
assume that our understanding of physical law is a complete and satisfactory de-
scription of nature. Relativity and quantum theory were developed less than one
potential human lifetime ago, and Newtonian physics less than three. 11 Given this
short span of time, is it more likely that we have already achieved an essentially
correct description of the universe—or that we have not?
   The more prosaic explanations make fewer demands on credulity, but so far they
have provided no more in the way of empirical support. Looking back on the wise
instruction of Morrison, it must be concluded that the condition he describes has
not yet been met. The chains of evidence linking fact and theory are still lar gely
unestablished. But this is not, as some would have it, a reflection on the limitations
of science. Pronouncements that the abduction experience is beyond contemporary
                APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                  67

science are probably wrong and certainly premature; and those who are disappointed
in what science has yet established should demand more of science, not less—this
means additional research focusing on those theories and evidential variables that
are most amenable to empirical validation and disconfirmation. Hypotheses that
have been advanced but not tested should be tested; and theories that have already
been studied can benefit from additional research. A “top ten” list of such ef forts
might address the following:

    1. A relationship between sleep anomalies and the abduction experience
       seems to make sense on theoretical grounds (and in terms of the ex-
       tent of sleep anomalies in the general population) but is yet to be di-
       rectly evaluated.
    2. The consistency across abduction narratives is obvious, but its statisti-
       cal deviation from chance (as determined by narrative production for
       the general population) has not been assessed. In fact, despite the ex-
       istence of some frequency distribution tables for abduction experience
       characteristics and content (e.g., Bullard, 1994), statistical analyses
       of these data have not been done. Also, a much closer examination of
       cultural variations in the abduction experience needs to be done.
    3. The occurrence of certain stigmata (e.g., scoop marks) have been de-
       scribed as suspicious, but no systematic pathological studies of their
       characteristics have been reported.
    4. It has been found that abduction experiencers are not generally more
       hypnotizable than others, but specific hypnotizability for the abduc-
       tion experience has not been studied in the general population. (That
       is, in response to hypnotic suggestion, what proportion of the general
       population will produce abduction experiences they regard as subjec-
       tively compelling and valid? How does this compare to the proportion
       of individuals who seek hypnosis to recover suspected memories of an
                                                          ynn
       abduction?) The studies by Lawson (1977) and L and Pezzo (1994)
       are a start, but more careful studies with better controls and lar ger
       subject populations are needed.
    5. The relationship between abduction experiences and childhood-abuse
       experiences deserves much closer attention. The new data on child-
       hood abuse and alterations in brain structure should be considered in
       regard to dual victims of abuse and experienced abduction.
    6. The extent of the abduction phenomenon should be better assessed,
       using new sampling instruments designed to address the objections
       (Donderi, 1994; Hall, Rodeghier, & Johnson, 1992) to the Roper sur -
       vey of abduction experience prevalence (Hopkins et al., 1992).
    7. Since an actual abduction requires (by definition) the removal of the
       abductee from his/her surroundings, a change in the abductee’ s im-
       mediate environment would also be required.Yet except for crude (and
68                          JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

          unsuccessful) attempts to videotape an abduction in progress, there
          have been virtually no ef forts to monitor the environments of those
          reporting abductions. Electromagnetic and other sophisticated remote-
          sensing devices could be employed (especially with experiencers who
          report high-frequency abductions) on a long-term basis to determine
          what, if any, kinds of disturbances occur in the experiencer’s environ-
          ment before, during, or after reported abduction experiences. Similar
          methodology could also monitor the location of the experiencer . The
          outcome of such studies might not prove or disconfirm alien interven-
          tion, but it could provide evidence that would bear on the validity of
          the hypothesis.
       8. Evidence from the clinic can also help advance science. Case studies
          of intervention strategies and outcomes (e.g., Mack, 1994; Gotlib, 1996)
          can provide insights into etiology or suggest avenues of research that
          may be productive. Mental health professionals should be encouraged
          to publish case studies, making the details of treatment histories avail-
          able to the research community.
                                                                f
       9. Investigators have cited psychic ability as cause or efect of the abduc-
          tion experience. The psychic performance of experiencers should be
          subjected to direct experimental test.
      10. Multiple-witness/experiencer cases provide the greatest challenge to
          conventional explanations. These cases should be a priority for both
          supporters and detractors of such explanations.

   Research is more dif ficult than armchair speculation, and also more expensive,
time consuming, and dependent on the cooperation of others (i.e., a subject popula-
tion). But these are problems of resource and motivation, not defects in the scien-
tific method. The abduction experience continues to be a phenomenon in need of an
explanation (Appelle, 1989). For the sake of science—and for the sake of the expe-
riencers—a continuing effort to establish an explanation is both necessary and ap-
propriate.


                                         NOTES
  1 Requests for reprints or correspondence should be addressed to the author at
                              ,
the Department of Psychology S.U.N.Y. College at Brockport, Brockport, NY14420.
  2 The following is reprinted from the Ethics Code for        Abduction Experience
Investigation and Treatment (Gotlib et al., 1994).
       The definition of “abduction experience,” and even the choice of this
       term, concerns the investigator as a matter of science (it should cor -
       rectly describe the phenomenon under study), concerns the MHP (men-
       tal health professional) as a matter of diagnosis (it should correctly
                APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                               69

       describe the event apparently responsible for the presenting symp-
       toms), and concerns the individual reporting the experience as a mat-
       ter of identity and self-image (it should correctly describe the charac-
       teristics of the experience as understood by the experiencer). How-
       ever, the literature reflects a lack of consensus among MHPs, investi-
       gators, or experiencers regarding which contextual, emotional, or situ-
       ational elements must be present to qualify as the tar get experience. .
       . . [A]t this stage of empirical and theoretical development it is inap-
       propriate to define or label the experiences under study in a way that
       assumes any particular conceptualization. . . . The use of “abduction
       experiencer”. . . is intended to avoid injustice to any particular theory
       of causality.” (p. 64)
  3 Various investigators have tried to characterize the abduction experience. Ac-
cording to Gotlib et al. (1994):
       Although there is not yet consensus regarding what contextual or ex-
       periential elements are necessary or sufficient to define the abduction
       experience, the literature suggests certain elements as most character-
       istic. These include (but are not limited to):
           • recall of an abduction or encounter with apparently nonhuman
             entities;
           • missing time related to recall of unidentified lights, objects, or
             apparently nonhuman entities;
           • unusually realistic and emotionally intense dreams or dream-like
             experiences of UFOs or apparently nonhuman entities. [p. 60]
  Bullard (1987) described abduction accounts as including the following elements:
capture (being caught and taken aboard a UFO); examination (being subjected by the
UFO abductors to physical, mental, and/or spiritual examinations); conference (com-
munication with the abductors); tour (a guided examination of various parts of the
UFO); otherworldly journey (transport to some other place on earth or an unearthly
environment); theophany (receipt of religious or spiritual messages); return (egress
from UFO and return to earth); aftermath (postabduction experience effects).
  Jacobs (1992) has categorized abduction experiences into primary , secondary,
and ancillary events involving physical activities (the taking of tissue samples and
the insertion of implants), mental activities (telepathic manipulations, psychologi-
cal testing procedures, information exchange), and reproductive procedures (egg/
sperm collection, embryo implantation, removal of fetus, actual or simulated sexual
activity).
  Rodeghier et al. (1991) defined an abductee as someone who was:
         taken against his or her will from normal, terrestrial surroundings by
         non-human beings . . . to another enclosed place that is not terrestrial
         in appearance and is assumed or known by the witness to be a space-
         craft . . . subjected to various procedures that appear to be examinations
70                       JOURNAL OF UFO STUDIES

        of some type, [and] engage in communication (verbal or telepathic)
        with the beings . . . [p. 64]
   Moreover, Rodeghier et al. required that the experiences “be remembered con-
sciously or through various means of focused concentration, such as hypnosis,” and
that “the witness must believe these things to be true and find the experience dis-
turbing.”
   Alternatively, Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum (1992) describe the following five
factors as “indicator experiences” for unrecalled (preconscious) occurrence of an
abduction: waking up paralyzed with a sense of a strange figure or figures present;
missing time; the feeling of actually flying; seeing balls of light in one’ s room; the
presence of puzzling scars on the body.
   4 Baker (1992) reports “a small replication with a few student volunteers [which
resulted in] elaborate accounts of bug-eyed, hairless aliens with ESP and levitation
powers” (p. 323). However , the study is not published and his reference to it pro-
vides no details regarding methodology or analysis.
   5 Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale, MMPI, Magical Ideation Scale, Perceptual       Ab-
erration Scale, Dif ferential Personality Questionnaire.
   6 Although sexual masochism is treated as a paraphiliac disorder according to
the DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), the hypothesis advanced by
Newman and Baumeister discusses this not as a disorder per se, but as one manifes-
tation of the escape-from-self personality syndrome. Accordingly, I discuss their
hypothesis here rather than in the psychopathology section.
   7 Interestingly though, Hopkins et al. (1992) interpret the prevalence of sleep-
paralysislike experiences as a key indicator of actual alien abductions.
   8 The ET characterization of reported entities is based on experiencers’ descrip-
tions of entity appearance, behavior , and technologies, and is most commonly un-
derstood in reference to beings originating elsewhere in the known universe. How-
ever, alternative interpretations of entity origin have included spiritual realms, dif-
ferent dimensions, or dif ferent times (i.e., the future).
   9 The term “psychodynamic” applies to concepts originating in Freudian psy-
choanalytic theory and later modified by others. These concepts refer to the forces
                                                      f
and processes of the unconscious mind and their ef ect on conscious experience and
behavior (Carson & Butcher, 1992).
   10 For example, if one-tenth of all abduction experiencers are fantasy prone and
one-fifth suffer from a sleep disorder , no more than one-tenth of the experiencer
population can have both conditions.
   11 Newton’s Principia was published in 1687. Quantum theory became estab-
lished early this century (the famous Copenhagen interpretation of quantum me-
chanics came out of a meeting in 1927). The maximum (recorded) human lifespan
is usually given as 120 years.
                  APPELLE: THE ABDUCTION EXPERIENCE                                    71

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